By: Joe Cardoso
Back, with a fall edition of Movers And Shakers another story to share of someone who is blazing their own trail and chasing their dream. Sports are amazing and can help us find things about ourselves and inside ourselves, we didn’t know. One of my favorite sports is soccer the passion of the fans the teamwork it takes to win all make it special in my opinion. Using the platform athletes have to help people is also something I feel is very important, and our athlete this month does it as well as anyone. Heading to the west coast we introduce a former USC Trojan and now a player in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL), the premier professional women’s soccer league in the United States. Let’s get to know Utah Royals defender and 5-year vet Samantha Johnson.
JC: I LOVE soccer when and why did you fall in love with the game?
SJ: I started playing soccer when I was 5 years old in the AYSO league for kids. I don’t remember much about the beginning only that I was having fun. When I scored my first goal I did a round off to celebrate which was hilarious because I wanted to be like Dominique Dawes except I was playing soccer haha.
JC: Going to a major school like USC how was the transition on and off the field for you?
SJ: USC is a very prestigious institution. Academically it is top notch of course but being a student-athlete was by far the hardest thing I have done in my life. I was not even close to being prepared to take on the challenge of being excellent academically and an athlete all at once. It was tough my freshman and sophomore year. The standard of being a great athlete and student was nothing shy of excellent. The athletic department was very hard on us athletes but provided us with everything we needed to be great athletes and people. I always think to myself how proud I am to be a Trojan because not everyone is capable.
JC: Can you describe the feeling getting the call to represent your country and do you still aim to make the senior national team?
SJ: I do remember the actual phone call that sparked by youth national team career. It came from my club coach Kristy Walker (Real So Cal). She was the coach for the U15 GNT at the time and someone at camp got injured and they needed a replacement and called me. I was at 6 Flags Magic Mountain and my phone rang in between rides haha. I didn’t know what the “national team” was really I just knew my coach asked me to come practice and I was happy to do so.
As far as the senior team. It is not a goal of mine at all. I think a lot of people have that goal and that’s great. I am a professional soccer player, I made it. This was always the dream and I worked very hard to live this life and play at this level. If for some reason I got selected to train with the full team that would be a credit to me contributing to my clubs success and growing as a player. I value the NWSL and its effort to grow therefore I take pride in being a piece to the puzzle as the league grows.
JC: What does your fitness and diet routine consist of?
SJ: In the offseason, I have a very interesting routine. I lift extremely heavy (I hate it btw). Of course cardio and working on fast twitch muscles is in the routine as well. I have learned how my body works after 5 years of being a professional player. Now I know exactly what to do to prepare so I can be great at what I do. I am naturally pretty strong so I create a strong base by lifting very heavy in the offseason then don’t touch weights during the season at all. I will show up to preseason half fit as far as cardio because I have learned that fitness will climb as the season goes on. It’s a very strange system but it works for me. As for a diet, I don’t really have a regiment. I snack a lot on green apples, cheese, crackers, pico de gallo and protein shakes. It sounds weird but I don’t really eat that much haha. I do hydrate like crazy because I sweat like crazy, therefore I will die without electrolytes in my water.
JC: People are slowly starting to respect the women’s game, what do you think is needed to take things over the top at a league level?
SJ: I don’t have a business degree so this question isn’t really for me to answer. I’m not into giving out ignorant answers haha I call that “talking out the side of your neck”. I’ll leave the business to the business people. I will say as far as respect for the women’s game; this guy at our game told me, “On tv, you guys don’t look like you’re running that fast, but in person, you guys are really running fast and playing hard”. HAHAHA! I was like, “Ya bro this is the pros but thank you for coming to the game.” I was actually laughing so hard but you’re correct the respect is coming.
JC: We have seen a big push and respect for female athletes recently, how important is that to you and being a role model?
SJ: Well I don’t really worry too much or keep a tally on who respects us as athletes. I am focused on doing my job for my team and that perspective takes care of itself. However, I do like to be in the community and impact young girls lives by being accessible to them. Not everyone wants to be a pro but if they can learn something from me through any questions they have to get to where they want to go in life then I feel good. It’s also a two-way street. It’s not always about me going to inspire but I feel like the girls inspire me too and help me be a better person.
JC: Who are some of the people in or out of the game that inspire you?
SJ: When I was younger, of course, I love Mia Hamm and Shannon Boxx were my favorite players for sure! Now that I am older I have a different perspective on inspiration. I meet a lot of people and try to learn from everyone regardless of the experience is negative or positive, that’s irrelevant. People are super interesting. I love people because people tell stories and everyone has something to offer to the world. I love meeting new people because I want to learn from them. Everyone inspires me.
JC: You are involved with an organization America Scores Chicago, how did that come about and what are you doing to help the youth?
SJ: I got discovered by the Executive Director of America SCORES Chicago when I was speaking on a panel for a different non-profit. I was actually filling in for my teammate because she asked me to how funny. There, I was approached and asked to be on the board because I was a woman who had a perspective the organization was looking for at the time. SCORES uses poetry and soccer as their vehicles to build character in the kids of south side and west side Chicago. Our programs are amazing and the kids love it.
JC: What was your favorite moment of this past World Cup, and did you have France winning it all?
SJ: I did not make any predictions about the 2018 World Cup but my favorite moment was when the 4th official allowed the player back onto the field at the halfway point and he picked off a back pass and literally got on a breakaway. How devastating for the defenders like wow. I would have been screaming at the officials. I had never seen anything like it before so I laughed because it wasn’t me in the situation.
JC: What else do you have planned for the rest of 2018?
SJ: The rest of 2018 will be spent on loan to Melbourne Victory in Melbourne, Australia. I am so happy to be back with the club this year.
JC: Who is Samantha Johnson?
SJ: You would have to ask people who know me/been around me. I would say my strength as a person is being able to see from someone else’s perspective even if I disagree. That is how I try to grow as a person. However, my weakness is definitely my tone. Ya girl got attitude for no reason. It’s like my voice is mad at everyone! So I need to be more mindful let’s just say that but it’s hard. I have been told I have no empathy for people because my perspective is mostly logic not emotion haha. This sounds negative but I don’t see it that way because I know I am different. But at the same time, I am someone who wants everyone to be happy and hopes to inspire young girls to be the best versions of themselves every single day. (Easier said than done I know). My life mantra is very simple, “Be humble, Stay true to yourself and Remember where you came from.” The best word to describe me according to my ex-teammate Yuki Nagasato is “INTENSE” haha!
The funnier answer to this: my own sister said if we weren’t sisters we would not be friends. I couldn’t agree more hahaha
JC: Who are your top 4 players male or female and why?
SJ: Ronaldinho- a magician on the ball
Thierry Henry- goal scoring machine
Carles Puyol- Crunch time defender
Two of my favs today are Eden Hazard and Raheem Sterling- their dribbling ability and change of direction at pace is lethal.
JC: Palmdale is best known for________?
SJ: The Afroman song haha I actually think it’s called “Palmdale”.
Samantha is one of the real ones and I appreciate her honesty and drive. If you have the chance to see an NWSL game DO IT, the level of play and atmosphere is fun. I want to thank Samantha for her time, fitting me into a busy schedule. Make sure you keep it locked on Nuts And Bolts Sports for more amazing features and opinions. Follow Samantha through social media.