Excelling at both soccer and cross country in the fall, Derek Johnson is a true Gladiator
Excelling at both soccer and cross country in the fall, Derek Johnson is a true Gladiator

[Editor’s note: “Take Five” is a recurring feature designed to offer a quick look at some of Oregon’s most interesting high school sports standouts. Gladstone senior Derek Johnson is a bit of a Renaissance Man, as he plays not one but two sports during the fall season and does both at a high level. Johnson is a four-year starter on the Gladiator soccer team and has been captain since his sophomore year. Johnson was named First Team All-League in cross country for a District champion team as a junior. He has completed a marathon and twice has run Hood to Coast! We asked Johnson to pick five questions from the 25 we posed to him. He answered them below]

OSAAtoday: What kind of coach gets the best out of you as a player?

Johnson: Don't get me wrong, I like joking around with friends and whatnot but when I'm at practice, I'm at practice. I don't like messing around when there's work to be done. If the coach is explaining a drill or something, I'm focused. And I expect the coach to demand focus from the team. I would much rather run sprints than have the team goofing around during practices. That is how quality is lost. Losing quality during practice because of a lack of focus or a lack of energy does not sit well with me. On that same coin though, there has to be a relationship with the coach outside of drills and workouts. Being able to joke around with your coach when he or she isn't coaching, in my opinion, helps the team bond. So that's the kind of coach that will get the best out of me as a player. One who demands attention and respect when there's work to be done, but also knows how to bond with athletes outside of practice. 

OSAAtoday: What is one interesting or unusual thing people don’t know about you?

Johnson: When I was a little kid I used to read a lot of books and play with Legos and draw quite a bit. All required attention to detail. I also used to play baseball. I was pretty good in the field and could catch and throw perfectly fine. The one thing I had a lot of trouble with was hitting. I could not hit the ball for the life of me. Even tipping a foul ball was exciting because I actually made contact! I played up until the 6th grade. One day my mom took me to the eye doctor to get my eyes checked after I failed a school checkup where all the students were tested. My left eye passed the eye test no problem. My right eye, on the other hand, was so bad to the point where I couldn't see the biggest letter on the eye chart. We saw a specialist and come to find out I'm essentially blind in my right eye. There were no other indicators during my childhood other than the fact that I couldn't hit a baseball. It was explained to me that nothing is wrong with the actual eye itself. But the connection from the eye to the brain was a weak connection. My prescription would be too big for contacts so to this day I just have one good eye. Not a lot of people know that. 

OSAAtoday: Describe your scariest moment while learning how to drive.

Johnson: My scariest experience while driving didn't come while I was learning how to drive, but it was shortly after I got my provisional license and I could drive by myself. I was coming home from a barbeque on the 4th of July and I was stopped at an intersection waiting to turn left onto a highway. Being a new driver I wasn't thinking about and taking into account that it had been sprinkling earlier and the roads were still wet. My light turned green and I accelerated too fast to the point where about halfway through the turn, in the middle of the intersection, I start to hydroplane. Thankfully I was able to avoid two mile marker posts on the side of the highway and went off the highway right between them. I stopped and sat there for what felt like five minutes trying to process what happened. Thankfully I didn't hit anyone or anything and I came out perfectly fine, just shaken up. 

OSAAtoday: What’s the wisest thing a parent ever said to you?

Johnson: The one thing a parent has said to me that stands out came from my dad. I forget the situation or what happened leading up to him saying this but he said: "Be thankful for what you have and work for what you want." Nothing super wise or cryptic by any means. I see it as more something to live by and it has just stuck with me. I feel too many high schoolers forget that not everything revolves around them. I was not the best soccer player growing up and I'm still not by any means. But I made the decision in 7th grade to leave my friends and my rec team and go play club soccer to keep improving. At the time, our rec team was really good and we were winning every game. It wasn't challenging. Long story short I made the club team and still play with them today. By taking that jump in 7th grade, I was able to improve enough to make the varsity soccer team freshman year and also earned Honorable Mention for the Tri-Valley Conference. 

OSAAtoday: You can blink and be transported to any place in Oregon for a day. Where do you go and why?

Johnson: This entirely depends on the season! I love being outdoors and I'm extremely grateful to live in such a beautiful state. If it's summer and hot outside, I'd be around some kind of body of water whether it be the ocean, a lake, a river, anything. I enjoy swimming with friends and soaking up the sun. If it's winter and there's snow on the mountains, you will find me riding a ski lift to the top with my snowboard strapped to my feet. I usually go to Mt. Hood Ski-Bowl but this next season I'm hoping to go to other ski resorts as well. As far as the 'why' I would blink and do these things would be because I realize how fortunate I am. Being able to wake up in the morning and stand on two feet and walk up the stairs to go eat breakfast is a luxury I feel many people forget to be grateful for. I like trying to make the most out of every day because when I'm old and unable to be active, I'll wish I would have done more.  

 Read other Take Five articles published in connection with the fall season:

South Umpqua outside hitter Shalyn Gray

Lincoln distance runner Mia Kane

Madras football player Treyvon Easterling