On-the-go Johnson still scoring goals
Jade Johnson's mom calls him the "gray hair child."
Sheila Johnson said her son, Jade, a two-time All-American soccer player at the University of Jamestown, was "always hanging his big toe over the boundary line."
Jade's 100-mile-per-hour approach to life is a dizzying story of determination, drive and achievement. And, of course, it still includes scoring a bunch of goals.
Johnson was recently named the National Premier Soccer League's Mitre Player of the Week. The 24-year-old Johnson, who plays for the first-year Dakota Fusion FC based out of Fargo, ranks second in goals (17) this season in the 96-team NPSL.
That's just his night job, so to speak. Johnson works full time at Agri-Cover in Jamestown and part time at Jamestown Regional Airport. It's not out of the ordinary for him to be fueling an airplane at 5:30 a.m., followed by a 9-5 shift at Agricover. When work's over, he hauls to Fargo for practice from 7:15-9 and occasionally has to be back on the runway at 10:30 to gas-up another plane.
"When days like that come, I'd much rather be busy and have my mind occupied than sitting around doing nothing," he said.
This weekend's a classic example.
Today, he's in Northern Minnesota for the bachelor party of one of his best friends and college roommate, Jace Nybo. Johnson planned the party, which includes kayaking and other outdoor adventures. After spending today with his friends, he'll drive to Minneapolis and catch a flight to Detroit for the Fusion's playoff game on Saturday night where a crowd of more than 6,000 will be in attendance.
"It's crazy, isn't it? You couldn't make any of this up, but I'm really enjoying it," said Johnson, who holds UJ career records for goals (35), points (87) and games played (77). "I'm fortunate because I'm still getting to play the game I grew up playing and the game I love."
The NPSL is considered the top amateur soccer league in the U.S., but it also means there is no pay. As Johnson put it, "it's all out of my own pocket."
Johnson finished just one goal short of winning the golden boot award for the most goals in the league. Dakota Fusion coach Jim Robbins said the West Fargo native is facing constant double and triple teams, but continues to nutmeg defenders.
"(Jade) possesses a unique combination of size, strength, speed, power and goal scoring ability," Robbins told the NPSL website.
The question now is, what's next? After a stellar collegiate career for the Jimmies, followed by continued high-level production at the amateur level, will a pro team give him a shot?
"I think I just have to sit tight and chill right now only because the season is still going on," he said. "What my chances are? I'm just not sure. But whatever falls in my lap, I'm up for it."
Nobody would ever doubt that.