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Hall of Fame Spotlight: Brad Johnson

Posted: Monday, February 12, 2024 - 11:22 AM

HOF Class of 2024
Brad Johnson HOF Headshot

Brad Johnson

As a youngster in southeast Minnesota, Brad Johnson was well aware of his heroes.

Thirty minutes away were the Janesville (Minn.) Red Sox, an amateur baseball team that filled him with all the thrills of visiting a ballpark while igniting dreams of one day playing on the plush green grass and maybe becoming a local hero. A bit further was County Stadium where Hank Aaron and Eddie Mathews made baseball cards come to life with their play for the Milwaukee Braves. Later, Johnson fondly remembers where he was when Aaron hit home run No. 715 to break Babe Ruth’s Major League record.

But it was closer to home at Janesville High School where his real heroes resided and made daily impacts. They could be seen in the hallways, classrooms, athletic fields and fine arts halls, guiding and encouraging young students to pursue dreams, unearth passions and strive for excellence.

“When I think of those leaders, the inspirational people that made profound impacts, I am so very grateful,” Johnson says many decades later. “In every stop along the way, those heroes multiply when you see the great works performed by so many.”

Johnson remains at the heart of that group of servant leaders. He will be honored for his decades of continued leadership as one of three inductees in the Administrators category in the League’s Hall of Fame Class of 2024 that will be inducted on Sunday, April 14 at the InterContinental St. Paul Riverfront Hotel.

Johnson was a 1968 graduate of Janesville High School where he earned 10 letters in four sports. His journey through education and administration continued while at Augustana (S.D.), and later at Minnesota State (Mankato). He spent 18 years as a teacher, coach and athletic director at Spring Valley High School and 20 years as principal and activities director at Rushford-Peterson. For the past 14 years, Johnson has served as the Region 1A Administrative Secretary.

“Very early on, through my parents, I saw the involvement they had with the community, the schools and church,” Johnson said. “The journey is all about relationships. I love being around school activities, and whether it was as a participant, as a coach, as an A.D., a principal or now as a Region Secretary, I’ve seen the tremendous experiences. People have grown because of that, not because of me, but because of the whole realm.”

In the 2005-2006 school year, Rushford-Peterson won the Minnesota State High School League’s state championship in Boys Basketball and Girls Track and Field. A year prior, the Boys Basketball Team was a state runner-up. Those titles joined Football championships claimed in 2002, 2004 and 2006, respectively. 

In October of 2007, following a heart surgery in February and the Rushford Flood in August, Johnson was recognized for his leadership with the Lefty Olson Award, an Augustana (S.D.) Hall of Fame Award for lifetime service and achievements in athletics and athletic administration. 

“Brad Johnson is a highly respected, outstanding athletic director who cares about kids,” Dave Stead, the League’s former executive director, said at the time. “Rushford-Peterson has had tremendous success for a small school and a big reason behind that is the leadership and care that Brad provides for the athletic program,”

In early 2007, Johnson had heart surgery, and later in August, Rushford-Peterson was among many communities in southeastern Minnesota that were hit with torrential rain that created widespread flooding. Johnson beams with pride at the memories of how his community came together to rebuild.

“Seventeen inches of rain took over the town,” Johnson recalled. “But the community, communities in the area and all over the state came to help us clean up to get ready for fall activities. We didn’t reschedule one football game or volleyball match.

“The first day of the teacher workshop there was excitement in being back. The superintendent is giving a welcome, and he looks up and around the group, and he pauses. The room gets quiet and he says I have one phrase to share: “Now we can flush!” We could flush in school and that was a load off everyone’s mind, not only for students, but teachers as well.”

When asked his leadership style, Johnson replies with a famous tagline from a shoe line.

“Whether it was my experience at Spring Valley, Rushford-Peterson or with the League, you just did it, just like that old Nike saying,” he said.

“Everything he does, he does in a meaningful way, and for the interest of the people that he works with,” said Rochester’s Gary Addington, a Hall of Fame inductee in 2007.

Brad Johnson HOF Action Shot

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