Sometimes it all just falls into the place. For whatever reason, someone just happens to be the right person at the right time for the right job.
Consider United States Sports Academy alumnus Steve Johns (M.S.S., Sports Science) seven years ago.
A professor in the exercise science department at Grossmont Junior College in El Cajon, Calif., who happened to be double-dipping as defensive coordinator for the school’s football team, Johns’ name was one of the first to come to Ken Niumatalolo’s mind in early December of 2007.
Having just been elevated to the position of head football coach at the United States Naval Academy, Niumatalolo had some big shoes to fill – his own as primary West Coast recruiter for the Midshipmen and those of departing special teams coordinator Jeff Monken.
Knowing Johns, his background and his coaching prowess from time spent together on John Robinson’s UNLV staff at the turn of the millennium, when Johns jumped from graduate assistant to overseeing linebackers, special teams and recruiting in a five-year span, Niumatalolo reached out to his former colleague and within weeks, the two reunited – with Johns assuming roles as Navy’s special teams coordinator and primary West Coast recruiter.
“I got to know Kenny real well at UNLV and though highly of him as a person,” said the 46-year-old Johns, who also has coached at Occidental College, the University of La Verne and the University of San Diego. “What Kenny was looking for in an assistant was right in my wheelhouse, so I thought I could help him out.”
The pairing, obviously, has been a very good one – for them and anyone associated with, or invested in, the Blue and Gold. Since Johns joined Niumatalolo’s staff prior to the 2008 season, Navy is 57-34 with six bowl appearances, seven straight wins against Army, four Commander-in-Chief trophies and a pair of victories against Notre Dame. He now coaches inside linebackers as well, and has been instrumental in making inroads for the Middies with players in places such as Washington, Phoenix and Las Vegas that they previously had tread lightly, if at all.
A standout athlete at Point Loma High in San Diego, Johns earned his bachelor’s degree in 1991 from Occidental, where he was an all-conference performer and team captain. He later earned a master’s in education from there in 1995.
The son of a football coach, Ed Johns, who toiled his craft at San Diego State, Oregon and Utah, the younger Johns’ ability to juggle multiple tasks in an efficient manner was evident during his time as a student at the United States Sports Academy, where he completed his degree in just seven months while teaching and coaching at Grossmont in 2007.
“I am very happy I did it,” said Johns. “I liked the program flexibility and the online component with self-paced classes. I felt like I learned a lot. I recommended it to guys (who) were looking to get master’s in physical education or something related.
“For me, it was the perfect choice. I already had a job, didn’t have to commute somewhere to take classes. It worked out perfectly.”
Apparently, Johns has this “right stuff” down pat.
The United States Sports Academy, known around the world as America’s Sports University, is an independent, non-profit, accredited, special mission sports university created to serve the nation and the world with programs in instruction, research and service. The role of the Academy is to prepare men and women for careers in the profession of sports.