When Bob Johnson retired as El Toro High’s football coach last December after 13 seasons, he said his desire to watch and support his sons, Bret and Rob, as they competed in college was the reason.
“I’ve followed both of my sons’ athletic careers since they were youngsters, and I want to watch them play college football,” Johnson said. “I don’t want to be coaching at Muirlands and La Paz (Mission Viejo High) while Bret is playing in South Bend, Ind.”
True to his word, Johnson and his wife, Debbie, have been piling up the frequent flyer mileage while making six trips to the Midwest to watch their oldest son, Bret, at Michigan State.
“Generally, we leave here at 2:05 p.m. and get back there at 10:30 on Fridays,” Johnson said. “I thought the schedule might be exhausting, especially when you come back Monday, turn around and do it all over again four days later. But it’s been like a vacation . . . very relaxing.”
Johnson, who won 119 games and three Southern Section titles at El Toro, said he enjoys the great tradition of game day in the Big Ten despite the fact that his son lost his starting position after the Spartans’ third game.
“Bret’s a little hurt and angry that the team didn’t win while he was starting, but he’ll have his day,” Johnson said. “I think when times are tough, it’s important for parents to show that we really care.”
Johnson has missed only one Michigan State game, when he elected to remain home and watch another of his former quarterbacks, Steve Stenstrom, lead Stanford past USC. Johnson’s youngest son, Rob, is a freshman quarterback for the Trojans.
“I go to practice every Wednesday at USC and then have dinner with Rob,” he said. “I miss coaching, but then I don’t miss it. I miss working with kids, but I’ve been so busy traveling and following my sons’ careers that I haven’t had a lot of time to think about it.”