Brad Johnson has worn many hats, all the way to the MSHSL Hall of Fame

Apr. 13—ROCHESTER — Brad Johnson looks at some of the glittery names who'll be inducted into the Minnesota State High School League Hall of Fame alongside him and he wonders if he fits.

Johnson, the 14th-year Region 1A Executive Secretary and a former longtime athletic director, coach and principal with stops in Spring Valley and Rushford-Peterson, will be inducted by the MSHSL in the Administrative category Sunday at the InterContinental St. Paul Riverfront Hotel.

"I'm very honored and humbled by this," said Johnson, among 12 being inducted.

The list includes four big-name athletes, including former Hutchinson, University of Minnesota and Minnesota Lynx great Lindsey Whalen.

"I look at that list and I think, man, what am I doing here?" said Johnson, also pointing to former Cretin-Derham Hall star quarterback Chris Weinke, who played in the NFL, as well as Apple Valley graduate and former star football lineman and wrestler Trevor Laws, another former NFL player. They'll be joined by Burnsville graduate and former all-around athletic star Holly Manthei.

As to whether Johnson belongs in the MSHSL Hall of Fame, just ask current Region 1AA Executive Secretary Gary Addington, himself a MSHSL Hall of Fame honoree in 2007 in the same Administrative category. The former longtime Rochester public schools supervisor of athletics leaves no doubt about Johnson's worth.

These two have known each other since their college days at Augustana University in Sioux Falls, S.D. Addington has watched Johnson operate for decades as an activities director and fellow Region Executive Secretary.

Addington says Johnson checks every box.

"First of all, Brad is an outstanding person," Addington said. "He is amazing. I don't know if I know anyone who is as professionally connected as he is. He's been a teacher, a coach, an activities director, a principal and now a Region Secretary. Being connected and respected by so many people allows him to do a great job. The other thing about Brad is, he's been a great mentor for me. He was a Region Secretary five years before I got started in it.

"Brad is without a doubt worthy of being into the Hall of Fame. Not only has he served his schools, but he has served the MSHSL faithfully and truthfully."

Johnson, 73, has made it his purpose the last 52 years to serve high school students, coaches, athletes and everyone connected with school activities.

The Janesville, Minn., native — who was raised by parents Allen and Edna Johnson, two strong encouragers of education and extra-curriculars — spent 18 years at Spring Valley High School (now Kingsland) and the next 20 at Rushford-Peterson High School before semi-retiring and accepting the Region 1A Executive Secretary job. That's considered a part-time gig, though through tournament seasons it swells to as many as 50 hours per week.

The tasks include collecting money receipts from section tournaments, providing financial reports to the region committee, and being a liaison between tournament managers as well as the MSHSL executive staff. The secretary administers to more than 50 different section and sub-section tournaments and contests.

Johnson has never tired of the high school scene and watching kids thrive and compete. It's what keeps him coming back for more.

"I've always loved high school activities and loved sports," Johnson said. "There is nothing better than watching kids compete and grow and develop. As they participate, they become great citizens and later great mentors. When I was in high school, I had great coaches and administrators. I always admired them."

Tom Vix is a former 33-year boys basketball coach at Rushford-Peterson and a Hall of Famer. He recalls when Johnson first showed up in Rushford, just as Rushford and Peterson were consolidating in 1990.

It wasn't an easy time, with the communities pushing and pulling at each other in the early days. But he watched Johnson take it all on with deftness as its first-year principal. He also watched as Johnson inherited the R-P activities director job that same year.

The latter went just as smoothly and efficiently. It didn't take long for Vix to realize how thoroughly Johnson had his act together. Vix, whose teams became an almost annual participant in the boys basketball state tournament, was one of the many who benefitted from Johnson's diligence and togetherness.

"When we made it to state tournaments, I didn't have to do anything — I just had to worry about the X's and O's," Vix said. "He had the hotels arranged for the team, the food lined up, he made sure the bus drivers were there. He'd say, 'Whatever I can do to help, just ask. You just worry about the X's and O's.' Because he was a former basketball coach (at Spring Valley), he understood what it took to be a coach. He knew what went on, the things you go through. He fixed this, took care of that."

Johnson gives credit to the schools he worked for, helping shape him and ease his burdens.

"I am very fortunate to have worked in the two school districts that I did, Spring Valley and Rushford-Peterson," Johnson said. "There were some great people that I worked for at those places."

But he gives his own family as much credit as anyone for allowing him to flourish. That is his wife, Bonnie, and their three kids, all of whom excelled as students and excellent athletes as they grew up. But it was Bonnie who gave Brad the green light to follow his passion, working in the schools, with all of the hours that went with it.

"I don't think spouses get enough credit for all of the time some of us are away," Johnson said. "And I'll tell you what, she did a great job of raising those kids."