La Verne holds key to Johnson’s future |

La Verne holds key to Johnson’s future

Thomas Ranson
Former Fallon and current La Verne linebacker Dalton Johnson warms up before a game last fall.
University of La Verne | LVNFo

Dalton Johnson has a message for anyone who wants to play football past high school.

“Keep your options open and pick the coach’s brain for as much information as possible,” Johnson advised. “Ask him what kind of offense or defense they run. Ask what practices will be like. Ask what the lifting program will be like. Ask why the coach thinks you’re a good fit for the team.”

After seeing his sophomore season end early due to injury, the former Greenwave standout made one of the best decisions in his life when he chose to relocate to Southern California. Playing linebacker at La Verne, a Division III school in the Los Angeles area, Johnson made sure to do his homework when picking the right home away from home.

So far, he’s doing everything right in part because of playing more than one sport at Fallon.

“Go somewhere that will make you happy. Because in the long run, it’s not about what makes your parents happy, it’s about what makes you happy and what’s going to make you successful.”

Johnson headlined for the Greenwave on the football, wrestling and baseball teams, earning various accolades, including all-state recognition. By playing three sports, Johnson said the transition was smooth going into college because of time management.

“It pretty much just became second nature to me,” Johnson said. “My parents always stressed to me how important my grades were as well. They always told me if I didn’t get good grades, then I’ll have no future. If I were to get hurt and not be able to return to play, then I would have an education to fall back on.”

If football doesn’t pan out after college, Johnson has several options. He wouldn’t mind making a career in coaching, but his first option is sports psychology.

“My goals, academically, are to figure out what I really want to do and to sit down and start sketching out different paths that I want to take,” he said. “I want to go play football professionally, but realistically I need to have a degree if that doesn’t work out. I plan on becoming either a sports psychologist or a professional in something that deals with helping children out with their stages of development.”

Originally, Johnson wanted to play at Idaho, a Division I school in the Sun Belt Conference, but when that fell through, he found an interest in La Verne. Football was always a possibility in college even though he had great success on the wrestling mat. But the deciding factor was his passion for football and felt there was a bigger reward in college.

“From the very first practice, I just fell in love with it,” said Johnson, who started at age 8. “I think it was just the fact that I could hit hard and I wasn’t really afraid of getting hit. As I got older and the competition got more competitive, I just fell more and more in love with the game. I loved the brotherhood that was created every year. I don’t think anything can take that away.”

With two years left at La Verne, Johnson’s focusing on getting stronger this offseason and proving to his teammates he belongs. The Leopards finished last year with a 2-7 record and Johnson hopes to give the team a boost next year.

“My goal for next season would be to start and show all my teammates that I can play,” Johnson added. “I want to get bigger, of course, because after I got hurt I lost 25-30 pounds. I really need to step up and get things done.”

Even with the injury and rehab, Johnson’s happy and wishes the same with the Greenwave’s student-athletes who want to purse a collegiate career.

“Go somewhere that will make you happy,” he said. “Because in the long run, it’s not about what makes your parents happy, it’s about what makes you happy and what’s going to make you successful.”