Known for being humble, there is one piece of trash talk that Troy Johnson always went back to throwing around.
“I will always remember Coach Johnson as a very easy-going and intelligent coach,” said Taylorville head coach Jeb Odam. “However, he was always quick to let me know if Indiana State was having more success than my, and Coach Kimbro’s, EIU panthers.”
Before accepting the head coaching job at Mattoon High School, Johnson spent a year coaching linebackers at Indiana State University. Once he started navigating the waters in Coles County, a friendly fan rivalry was just one of many things Johnson did during his 13 seasons coaching at MHS.
Johnson will retire from coaching football on Friday with over 100 wins at the high school level. While Johnson will be the first person to tell you he might have made fans happy, or mad, over the years with his decisions in games, coaches around the Apollo Conference will miss Johnson’s presence on the field.
“The thing that sticks out to me the most is that his teams have always been well coached,” said Mt. Zion head coach Patrick Etherton. “Everytime you played against him, you knew the players would align correctly and have good technique. I know that over the years I have enjoyed coaching against Coach Johnson and have always enjoyed talking with him before the game or in the spring at track meets. He is a great coach that has done a tremendous job of preparing his players each week.”
Taylorville rejoined the Apollo Conference around the same time as Mattoon. Odam said that playing Mattoon was always a tough matchup.
“He always seemed to have the perfect game plan vs Taylorville,” said Odam. “Whether it was QB run, spread pass, or the backfield, he and his staff always seemed to have an answer for us.”
When Mattoon moved to the Apollo Conference, Mattoon had to fill voids in their schedule due to the amount of opponents. The Big 12 conference was normally a nine game all conference schedule, but the Apollo forced Mattoon to play non-conference games. Starting in 2012, Mattoon picked up Troy Triad as an opponent and have played them yearly outside of one COVID-shortened season.
Longtime head coach Paul Bassler has been with the high school since 1998 and has amassed 139 wins at the school. He said that playing Mattoon at the beginning of the season was always a great game for their program.
“We have loved having Mattoon on our schedule because they are always very well-coached, display great sportsmanship, and are always very competitive, and I believe that this is all a reflection of Coach Johnson’s coaching style and expectations,” said Bassler. “He will be missed in our coaching profession and we at Triad wish him nothing but the best in his retirement.”
Charleston head coach Jerry Payne said that the sportsmanship Mattoon had as a team was a trickle-down effect from their head coach.
“I always appreciated how he would come to talk after the game,” said Payne. “He was never arrogant. Even in a loss, he was gracious. Some coaches won’t talk to you if they lose. He just handles things really well. The teams he has are always well-coached with a ton of discipline. I think that’s a good reflection on him.”
Payne remembers Johnson from when he started as an assistant coach at Charleston in 2012. At the time, Payne was a long-term sub in the Mattoon school district.
“I was a long-term sub in the district and I got to know Troy a little bit,” said Payne. “He is a really great man, easy to talk to, and has a very calm demeanor about stuff. He is really good with the kids. I got to see how he interacted with the kids in school. I never got to coach with him, but I feel that is someone who is going to be really missed over there.”
Heading into retirement, not many coaches get to walk into the sunset. Some coaches get let go due to wins or not meeting expectations. However, the way Athletic Director David Vieth sees it, Johnson has been the glue that has held everything together over the years.
“Troy Johnson has been a rock for the football program,” said Vieth. “He is always there to help his kids beyond the game of football. His teams always play hard. Win or lose the Green Wave plays the game the right way. Troy is a first-class person, coach, and friend to many. He has been great for our school district. He will be greatly missed.”