At halftime of last week's game, Miller managed to catch his mentor by surprise with a small ceremony that drew former players to the Westminster school to honor the long-time area football coach. Everybody had time to catch up at a reception after the game at the nearby Elks Lodge.
"He gave me my first coaching opportunity," said Miller, Johnson’s assistant the past 10 years. "He's won 160 football games, so he does have success, plus he's devoted 40 years to working with kids and helping others. It's certainly not for the money and he does it the right way. He looks out for the well being of the kids and he's a teacher before he's a coach. He's a good guy.”
Johnson, who still assists with the Falcons, is in his 42nd year of coaching high school football in Carroll and Baltimore counties – 29 as a head coach. He accumulated a 161-116 record at Randallstown, Chesapeake-BC, Liberty and Winters Mill. In 1984, he guided Randallstown to the state Class 4A championship.
"I was completely surprised," Johnson said. "There were some kids there from Randallstown and some from Liberty as well as some from Winters Mill. It was great to see them."
Johnson had coached the Falcons since the school opened. When he retired as head coach last year, he said, he just knew it was the right time.
"I wanted to teach a year or so without being a head coach just to experience that and to slowly end my career in education,” Johnson said. “My wife’s been retired for three years, and I know it’s coming up very shortly. I’ve had a lot of guys that I’ve worked with that are older and they’ll say, ‘You’ll know when,’ and I just knew when last year. It had been knocking on the door for a few years and it just felt like the right time to do it."
As he eases away from football, Johnson continues to teach physical education and assist with the Falcons football team. He doesn’t miss the responsibilities of being a head coach and is enjoying spending more time with the players.
"It’s still 12 hour days," Johnson said. "It really hasn’t changed, but I have not regretted it once. It's a very good situation that I have and the relationship I have with Matt. I'm very much enjoying this year working with the kids. It's kind of reminding me why I got into it to begin with. I don't have all the other things that go along with being a head coach now that weren't maybe as prevalent 15-20 years ago. Right now my whole attention is working with the kids. It’s rejuvenating."