Desire, talent, hard work helped Stanford-bound athlete
Harness the power
By Ethan Holly
On his nearly lifelong quest to attend Stanford University, Blaise Johnson needed more than a good throwing arm. The college’s recruiters wanted plenty of brain power to back up what he could do on the football field.
By combining muscle with academic prowess, the 2005 Corona del Sol High School graduate managed to accomplish what only two percent of the nation’s college hopefuls do every year: qualify to play athletics at Stanford on the basis of grades.
The hard work he put in at Corona, as it turns out, was a piece of cake by comparison.
“Getting into Stanford is like saying you want to walk on the moon,” Johnson said.
“I had a 4.0 GPA but the admissions people were very stubborn. I had to retake my SATs and submit extra essays. There was tons and tons of work to get in.”
While at Corona Johnson was a member of the varsity football team all four years. It was during his sophomore season that he showed the true determination and mental strength that separates typical high school athletes from those who will go on to play in college.
It was a small misstep that almost sent his promising career into a tailspin.
“During the homecoming game I dropped a pass. It was the first pass--and only pass--I dropped all season.
“Not only did I drop it but I tipped it up, and the other team caught it and ran it in for a touchdown,” Johnson said.
In the locker room at halftime, Johnson had to sit through a halftime speech with 45 frustrated seniors nervous about being on the losing end of their own homecoming game.
“We were down by four with 10 seconds left, so we tried a Hail Mary pass. About five players tipped the ball, and then I caught it and walked into the end zone,” Johnson said.
“After you score a touchdown you really feed off the fans, and at first you could hear crickets chirping because no one really knew what happened; then the ref raised his hands for a touchdown and the stands went wild.”
After his heroics at the homecoming game, Johnson continued to be a fixture in the Aztecs starting lineup for football. His determination to succeed at athletics forced him to make some difficult decisions off the field.
“I’ve had goals in my life and I said nothing would get in my way,” Johnson said. “Instead of going out to a kegger I’d go and lift weights or play basketball.
“I try to look at what I am doing right now, and think about where that is going to get me.”
The success Johnson achieved during his high school career was aided by the fact he started playing at an early age.
“In fourth grade my dad got me into it,” Johnson said. “I was really into soccer and baseball. Me and my brother used to fight all the time, and my dad said: ‘You seem to like to hit people, so why don’t you try and play football.’”
Although Johnson had many difficult games, it was in academics where he faced some of his toughest challenges, he said.
In order to keep his grades high he used a rather unusual mentality.
“I never gave up. I am gonna fight this until the end. I’ll get this done. I had the same mentality with academics as athletics,” Johnson said.
One teacher in particular at Corona has impacted Johnson. Richard Curran was not only Johnson’s math teacher but someone he looked up to.
“There was always something going on in his class--you wanted to pay attention to him. You felt like you owed it to him,” Johnson said.
“Once I used an old homework assignment and tried to pass it off as last night’s homework. He gave me credit for it but for the rest of the class I felt like I had this monkey on my back. I felt so bad I’d taken advantage of him so I told him after class. He let me keep the credit. He is just a great man.”
Johnson had picked out his college of choice at a very young age.
“I picked Stanford when I was eight years old,” Johnson said.
Schools such as the Air Force Academy and BYU did their best to try to sway him otherwise.
“There is a lot of pressure in the recruiting process; you think you might make the wrong decision for college,” Johnson said.
To make the difficult choice of where to attend college, Johnson relied on those closest to him.
“My family played the biggest role in the recruiting process. I really trust them. Their advice is always in my best interest. I really value their opinions,” Johnson said.
The Johnson family cultivated not only one student athlete: All of the children have attended college on athletic scholarships.
Although Johnson is scheduled to play defensive back at Stanford, he is considered by many to be a versatile athlete capable of playing a variety of positions on the field or undertaking virtually any athletic challenge.
He was a member of the 4-by-100-meter track team that ran a 41.88-second time to set a new school record, and competed in varsity wrestling and baseball.
Although his own determination is largely responsible for what he achieved in high school, Johnson avoids taking full credit.
“There are so many people who have helped…get me to level that I am at,” he said.
Now, basking in what most would consider a well-deserved break, Johnson says he has decided to report early to the Stanford football team.
“It would be unlike me to show up with everyone else,” he said.
As to his reflections on the direction his life has taken so far, Johnson is circumspect.
“It is not about what God-given talent you have, it’s what you do to harness that.
“If you want it bad enough, and work hard enough, you’ll get it. It’s sappy but it’s true.”