Fallon grad leads Leopards defense

Fallon grad Dalton Johnson (53) competes on defense against Occidental this season.

Fallon grad Dalton Johnson (53) competes on defense against Occidental this season.

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Dalton Johnson wants to leave a lasting impression in Southern California.

The senior linebacker who dazzled on the football field, wrestling mat and baseball diamond in Fallon has been a consistent force on defense for the La Verne Leopards. And it doesn’t hurt that his name is becoming as common in the La Verne halls as it once was when he strutted the high school campus.

“There’s nothing more rewarding than being able to not only walk around campus but also off campus and people recognize who I am. There’s not a better feeling than that,” said Johnson, who still has one more season left after missing his sophomore year due to injury.

But Johnson isn’t the type who puts himself before his team.

“I’m very happy for him that he had such a great experience down at La Verne,” Fallon coach Brooke Hill said of his 2013 grad. “Dalton was a real force for us. It goes back to the 2011 team that went to semifinal and lost to Truckee in a close game. He was a major part for us in that game being junior. He was an all-state kid.”

Coming off one of the school’s best seasons, this year didn’t go as planned for Johnson and his La Verne teammates on the football field. Johnson finished with 11 tackles, including two for loss, and one forced fumble in seven games this season as the Leopards struggled to find the win column.

Watch out for this Division III squad next year, though.

“The season didn’t go as expected coming off of our conference championship the season before but we found a lot of young leaders in our team,” Johnson said. “We ended the season starting seven freshmen on the defensive side of the ball due to injury. Of course, we fell short of our goal of winning another conference championship.”

Johnson’s best game came in the opener when he registered four tackles in a 31-29 loss to Puget Sound. Last season saw different results for not only the Leopards but for Johnson. He had 14 tackles, including 1.5 for loss, in that championship season, but he can’t wait for next year.

“The ultimate goal is to be either an all-conference player or an All-American,” Johnson said, “but for me, it’s not about me, it’s more about the team. If we win another conference championship, and I do not get recognized for anything, then that’s all that matters. Team first, self second. I just hope to stay healthy through the whole season and stay injury free.”

Off the field, school has been going well for Johnson. The psychology major plans on getting his master’s in sports psychology at the California State University, Long Beach.

“My time at the University of La Verne has been some of the best years of my life,” Johnson said. “As far as the classroom goes, it’s easy as long as I show up and do my work. I found that out years ago. Academics for me haven’t really been hard for me, I usually just did whatever it took to get on the field.”

None of this, though, would be possible if it weren’t for Johnson’s support system.

“My family has been the biggest support since I’ve been at the university and I cannot thank them enough for all they have done for me,” Johnson said. “My dad works his butt off just to be able to pay for my schooling so I can do what I enjoy, which is play football and go to school.”

Johnson is also grateful to be able to come back and play one more year next fall. It’s an added bonus to continue his career with his cousin, freshman linebacker Conner Johnson, by his side.

“Being able to play by my cousin’s side for one more year and to play for the coaching staff at the University of La Verne is something that I will never forget,” Dalton Johnson said. “I hope to accomplish as much as I can both as a student and as an athlete.”

The 2017 fall season will be for everyone who helped support Johnson. From his friends and family to his coaches and players – both current and past – Johnson wants next year to be dedicated to them.

“Since I have my year back, I want to dedicate it to everyone that has helped me get to where I am,” Johnson said. “Coming back wasn’t a have to, for me it was a want to.”


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