Taking the reins
As a teenager, Curtis Johnson sat in the chairs outside of his father's office at Cibola High School waiting for his dad to finish his meetings.
Today he sits in his own office as the new athletic director of the Raiders with only a wall dividing him and his father's former office.
“It puts a special sense of pride in me,” Johnson said. “Not only do I remember where I came from during its (Cibola's) glory years, it's also a sense of leaving a mark to make it better. It's kind of the family atmosphere and you always want to make sure your family is taken care of. I really consider Cibola High School a part of the family.”
During his days as a Raider, Johnson used to assist the athletic director with errands while waiting for his father, Neil. He never imagined that he would one day hold the title himself.
“It was kind of like a dream come true. It was one of those things that I kind of had the feeling that it would never happen to me,” Johnson said. “There was so much excitement of telling my dad and telling my soon-to-be wife — my wife now — and the family because it was really our dream.
“My entire family is vested in the education of Yuma and there was that excitement and that feeling of wow, I get to make an impact in something that my whole family has been working on for years and years.”
Johnson — the former athletic trainer at Cibola — took over the reins from Kevin Gettings, who is now the assistant principal of academics at Kofa. The magnitude of what Gettings had accomplished during his tenure at Cibola is something that Johnson said he really admired. And now that he's in control, he's hoping he can continue to build on that work.
“He (Gettings) was very good and if there's one thing I learned, it was that I was never in his shadow. He was very good at promoting the people that set him up for success. So I want to make my own mark and I want to use a lot of what he did, too.
“I believe that his way of marking his mark here at Cibola was all the quality people that he put in place and set up for success. So I hope to continue that, too.”
With a background in sports medicine and years as an athletic trainer under his belt, Johnson's main initiative is rooted in player safety.
Yuma's high temperatures led to the implementation of a districtwide heat policy last year. The Arizona Interscholastic Association followed suit this year, and Johnson is hoping to further make athletics safer for all athletes.
“One of the things I do a little differently is that I work much closer with our athletic trainer. I got to mentor her last year in her last year of college. So her and I work very closely to make sure there's that team approach.”
It was a whirlwind ride for Johnson as he became the new athletic director. Only a day after being told he was chosen for the position, he married his wife, Tabby. On their honeymoon, the couple discussed the future of Cibola athletics and what Johnson hopes to accomplish during his time in the role. And one of his biggest dreams is restoring the program to its glory days.
“I remember when I was in school, there used to be posters of Cibola football hanging up in restaurants around town. That's what I would really like to do.
“To my knowledge, we have a very positive image out there. I just want people to know that positive image wants them to come in so they can get the experience — we're nothing without the community. I would like to do a drive for community support because I believe athletics can be the ultimate vehicle for other things in the community.
“We have a lot of quality athletes here. I know we have Bernie (Montoya), Monica (Huston) and Jordan (Mitchell) who get all the headlines. I would say that the great thing is that we have at least 300 athletes who are going to start Aug. 6, and it's great to see all of them start their road to building and contributing to the community.”
Erin Redmond can be reached at 539-6880 or at email@example.com. Find her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/YSErinRedmond.