The Athlete

Our founder, Steven Johnson, knows that nothing worth achieving ever comes easy. He began playing football at the age of five in his hometown of Media, PA, and although Steven is now an accomplished NFL linebacker, his journey has been full of challenges. Now, the things that once seemed like obstacles to fulfilling a dream are part of a plan that has made Steven stronger both on and off field.

Steven excelled in football and knew Jesus Christ at a young age. His father was always with him, pushing him to be the best he could be. However, after Steven’s parents got divorced, he felt very lost and confused. He was no longer the star-studded 12-year-old football player every one knew. He quickly became known as the  “chubby kid” and was an easy target to be made fun of throughout elementary and middle school.

Steven then attended Strath Haven High School in Wallingford, PA.  While in high school, he was a fairly good student, averaging around a 2.9 GPA. While his studies were somewhat stable, Steven’s athletic career was not. As a freshman in high school, he was forced to play on the Freshman football team, while all of his close friends played on Junior Varsity/Varsity Squad. Continuing onto Steven’s sophomore and junior years in high school, Steven never cracked a Varsity position. He would get time on special teams, sporadically, but never was given enough opportunities to show college scouts what he was all about. So, all Steven was known as was “Pookie,” (his childhood nickname) the kid with a huge heart and even bigger dreams that most likely would never come true.

Nonetheless, Steven did not listen to anything but his heart. In the summer of 2005, he re-dedicated his life to Jesus Christ. Many may not know this, but this simple declaration, Steven believes, was the turning point in his life. At the start of Steven’s senior season he was elected Team Captain. He then went on to lead the state of Pennsylvania in tackles, while being selected 2nd Team All-State and 1st Team All-Delco at his linebacker position. This was huge for Steven!  Now colleges could see that he was a good player and someone would be sure to offer him a scholarship… Not so fast! No one knew of Steven because he only started one year in high school. Therefore Steven had to attend a small prep school in Wilkes-Barre, PA, where he planned to play one more season, so coaches could then re-recruit him and he could fulfill his dream of playing at a big-time college. Everything started off great as he was working his way towards a collegiate scholarship.

Then, Steven’s life was rocked by a devastating injury during the season’s fifth game. He tore his ACL & LCL. This time was rough for Steven. As a result of the injury he became depressed, stopped taking care of his personal health, and nearly gave up on his dream. At his lowest point, Steven began to rely on God for strength, mentally and physically. He slept with a bible on his knee nearly every night as it sat on Psalm 18, Steven’s favorite set of verses: “I love you, Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer; my God is my rock in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold…” This is what motivated him to take care of himself and stay focused on his dream of playing in the NFL. However, with no colleges wanting him due to the injury and no light seen at the end of the tunnel, Steven began to give up.

One day, out of desperation, he sent a letter to an on-campus recruiting coordinator at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, KS.  Through this letter, Steven received the opportunity to walk on at the University of Kansas. With many prayers and support from family over a two-year span, sleeping on teammates’ couches, walking miles to class, and barely enough money to purchase books for classes, Steven was granted a full scholarship after his second season at KU, before nearly having to return to his hometown of Media, PA due to financial strife. Steven then became a starter in his Junior season at KU, leading his team in tackles.  During his senior year, he was named All Big-12 and led the conference in tackles, with 126, as well as ranking 14th in the nation in that category. He was also nominated as one of the nation’s top “walk-on” players in Division I Athletics.

After graduating from the University of Kansas with a major in Economics and minors in Business and Sports Management, Steven went on to the NFL Combine. Soon after that, the draft came and went.  Steven was not drafted.  However, the Denver Broncos offered him a deal to be one of their un-drafted free agents to come in and compete for a spot during camp.  Steven went on to make the final 53-man roster for the next three seasons, playing with arguably the best quarterback to ever play the game, Peyton Manning. Although Steven has been known as one of the best special teams players in the NFL in his 4 seasons of playing, he has been seeking to become a full-time starter and an All-Pro Linebacker at the professional level.

Now, entering his 5th season in the NFL, Steven plans to crack into a starting lineup. This season is huge for Steven, as he plans to grow in his trust in God, as well as in his abilities on the field.  For this reason, Steven and his wife, Stephanie, have started The Faith Motivated Foundation, with which they seek to encourage kids and adults to set and achieve their goals and to live a healthy lifestyle, by motivating through Christ.  Steven has indeed taken the rocky road into the NFL, and if there is any notion that history repeats itself, we may have a superstar in the making!