Football: Douglas grad joins Oakland Raiders full time
June 29, 2012
It’s funny how things work out sometimes.
A couple years ago, a career in professional sports was a dream for 2003 Douglas High graduate Adam Johnson.
As late as this spring, with a young family in tow, the only thing he could’ve imagine doing was teaching middle school and coaching high school sports.
Within a matter of hours, the two career paths merged into an immediate crossroads.
The final decision, as it turned out, was entirely out of his hands.
The Oakland Raiders, following an overhaul of their front office earlier this year, called Johnson with an offer to be a full-time equipment manager for the franchise.
Within a matter of hours, Douglas County School District informed him that his teaching position would be RIF’d (reduction in force) for the fourth consecutive year.
While the district brought him back in each of the three previous years, he now had to consider providing for a family (his son, Oliver, was born during last football season).
He chose to accept the job with the Raiders, and has been working for the club through the entire offseason training program. He’ll join them permanently next week.
“It’s surreal to get a call from an NFL franchise offering you a job,” he said. “It’s one of those things you dream about growing up.
“But the way things were here, I really thought I wanted to keep teaching. (Douglas head football coach) Ernie Monfiletto asked me to coach the offensive and defensive lines for the varsity football team. I was excited to do that.
“My inclination would’ve been to call the Raiders back, thank them for the offer, and stay here.”
Johnson, who played football at Douglas, worked throughout college as a student manager for the University of Nevada football team.
Then Wolf Pack head equipment manager Craig Hopkins found a summer intership for Johnson with the Raiders in 2007.
“It was after my third year with Nevada,” Johnson said. “Craig asked if I’d want to work for an NFL team for the summer. He called the guy with the Raiders, and they gave me a shot.
“I went back every summer, last year it was just for two weeks, but the whole organization has always been top notch with me.
“(Raiders equipment manager) Bobby Romanski was always telling me if anything ever opened up, I’d be the first person he called. He’s the one who called with the job offer. He’s a great guy and he’s been a great mentor to me. I’m looking forward to working with him.”
Johnson’s duties with the Raiders include setting up and tearing down the practice field, taking care of the players’ equipment and working the practices and games.
He said he believes his primary responsibility will be the wide receivers, although he was working with quarterbacks during previous summers.
During the season, he’ll travel to every game with the team.
“It’s kind of ironic,” Johnson said. “I grew up loving all sports. Baseball was always my favorite. But I really enjoyed football in high school and it caught on from there. I loved being a student manager at Nevada and to get an offer to do something similar at the highest level was pretty special to me.”
Johnson said he had nothing but positive things to say about the school district.
“I’m thankful to them for the opportunity,” he said. “They’ve been supportive of the move. It’s not too often that someone gets an opportunity to work in the NFL.”
One of the hardest parts of leaving has been not being able to coach, Johnson said.
“I coached with the freshman team last year and it was a dream to be able to coach at the varsity level,” he said. “I bleed black and orange. The reason I wanted to come back here and coach was to help young people. Coach (Mike) Rippee, Monfiletto and Coach (Steve) Wilcox all gave me such a great example of what high school sports is supposed to be.
“They had a big influence on my life and I was excited to get that same opportunity to hopefully have a similar effect with the kids coming up.
“It was a really tough decision to leave it behind. I could’ve been content teaching for another 26 years down here. But when you talk about working on Sundays in the biggest sport in the United States, that’s pretty exciting. It’s a foot in the door.
“The way the Raiders have treated me over the last few summer really made the decision a lot easier. It’ll be a good situation for me and for my family.”
Johnson said in a lot of ways he prefers working with professional athletes, compared to college athletes.
“Sometimes in college, you’d get guys that were just full of themselves and not too fun to be around,” he said. “At the pro level, they aren’t rude. They take care of the people that take care of them. They understand that everyone is working toward a common goal. They understand you have a job to do.
“My boss does a really great job. He always lets me go hands on and I’ve learned so much. I’m excited to continue to learn from him.”