The Student News Site of Menlo School

The Coat of Arms

The Student News Site of Menlo School

The Coat of Arms

The Student News Site of Menlo School

The Coat of Arms

Willis Johnson Commits to Puget Sound for Football

Asher Darling

This winter, senior Willis Johnson committed to play Division III football at the University of Puget Sound. Johnson is excited to show his capabilities on the field while enjoying the scenic campus and college environment.

Johnson’s football career began in fourth grade when he first played flag football alongside his younger brothers and fell in love with the sport. Throughout middle school, he continued to play football with a tackle team while also participating in basketball. 

Johnson credits his uncle with having the greatest impact on his passion for sports and perspective on life. When his uncle was in high school, he received around 30 Division I offers in football; however, due to personal complications, Johnson’s uncle did not attend university. Despite never playing in college, he still wanted to give Johnson his knowledge of the sport. Beginning in fifth grade, Johnson worked almost every day after school with his uncle to improve his skills. “My work ethic, grit and grind are all from him,” Johnson said. 

In his junior year, Puget Sound reached out to Johnson after viewing gameplay and practice footage posted on social media by football assistant coach Mike Hill. Throughout the process, the college continued to be supportive not only of Johnson but also his family. The financial package and the overall interest of the college led Johnson to make an easy decision. 

In preparation to play collegiate football, Johnson wakes up at 5 a.m. every day to work with a personal football coach and participates in Menlo track during the spring. “I am making sure I stay in shape,” Johnson said. Part of the reason for this preparation is for the summer when his Puget Sound coaches will ask him to submit videos of his workouts and playbook runs. 

Johnson said he will miss the connections he has formed with his teammates and coaches at Menlo. “I’ve grown so close to these brothers over the past four years, it’s going to be hard to leave them,” Johnson said.

Johnson has endured a history of injuries due to his aggressive playing style and position as a running back and outside linebacker. Throughout high school, he has missed games due to a torn labrum in his shoulder, a medial collateral ligament sprain and broken bones, among other injuries. Despite these setbacks, Johnson has felt supported by football head coach Todd Smith. “Todd has been with me through everything,” Johnson said. 

Smith believes that Johnson’s energy and enthusiasm positively impacted the Menlo football team every day. “I don’t think there has been a guy that has brought more energy to our practices. […] Each practice he missed was felt,” he said. 

He shared that Johnson has shown immense personal growth throughout his four years at Menlo. “He has grown into a great young man,” Smith said.

Johnson is motivated by his desire to be a positive role model for his younger brothers and use football as a way to teach them valuable life skills, such as perseverance and good judgment. “Everyone makes mistakes, but I hope they follow the good and ignore the bad,” he said.

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About the Contributors
Bianca Putanec
Bianca Putanec, Assistant Sports Editor
Asher Darling
Asher Darling, News Editor

Number of years in The Coat of Arms: 2

Favorite aspect of journalism: The freedom to explore topics that interest me through my passion for writing and collaborating with the rest of the COA staff

Interests outside of school: Basketball, traveling, spending time with friends and family

Class of 2026

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