College Athlete of the Week: Drew Johnson
Player: Drew Johnson
Year, school: Freshman, Pacific Lutheran University
Hometown: Monroe (Monroe High School)
What he did: As a coxswain, he led the PLU varsity eight boat to the Meyer Cup with a victory over the University of Puget Sound, ending a 10-year streak of futility against UPS in that race. The Lutes won both the Meyer and the Lamberth cups in the annual Meyer Lamberth rivalry race between the Tacoma schools.
What's next: The Lutes will compete in the NCRC championships in Lowell, Ore., this weekend.
I should start by telling you that I've got a 2 ½-year old whose name is Drew Johnson. So you're already my favorite Athlete of the Week, but there's nothing you could possibly say to become my favorite Drew Johnson.
(Laughs) I understand.
You don't, by any chance, jump and shriek when you see Lightning McQueen, mini-Coopers or fruit snacks, do you?
Good. That means someone else is paying for your education. So tell me a little about this rivalry with UPS. Did beating them mean a lot more than a regular race?
Definitely. Our program actually started as a joint program between us and UPS. That was about 50 years ago, at least. After the programs split up, the schools started their own separate programs, and they've been competing in the Meyer Lamberth Cup for quite awhile. The past 10 years, we've lost to them. So beating them this year is a big boost in morale after losing 10 years straight.
What did you do to celebrate?
We cheered a lot. We're still training pretty hard for the rest of our season, so …
What don't you guys like about UPS?
They take things a little leisurely, I guess. We share a boathouse with them because of proximity. So we get to see them every day they choose to come and practice out on the water. A lot of times, they don't come to practice, when we're out there every day.
Why is that?
I'm not sure. I guess they don't understand the working conditions on the water.
Know any good UPS jokes?
I haven't heard any.
You're still a freshman. My boss is a Lute, and he's got some good ones, but we won't go there. Tell us what it's like being a coxswain.
It's really different than any other position in any other sport. It's not necessarily a physical job; it's all mental. It's kind of taxing on the mind, rather than the body. I really like it, though, because of that. I'm really well-seasoned for the job. That's why I did it.
What do you mean by 'well-seasoned' for it?
Well, there was an involvement fair at the beginning of the year. All the different clubs came out and tried to recruit people for their cause. One of the current rowers said: 'You're the right size to be a coxswain.' I'm only 5-5, and you need little people to sit in the boat. The rest was training. Then you have to think strategically and plan things out and have a strong of responsibility.
Have you ever been a coxswain before?
I had never done it before.
What was the hardest adjustment?
There's a lot of terminology about a boat. I played tennis for three years, but tennis is easy enough to pick up. Rowing is a lot to learn _ about anything. It's not like anything else.
There are those who might argue that using a coxswain as Athlete of the Week is a stretch. Are you guys athletes?
I would say yes. We're just as important to the team winning a race as any of the other eight rowers in the boat.
You mentioned tennis. Were you involved in any other sports at Monroe High?
I threw javelin, actually. For two years.
Tennis is a pretty cerebral sport. Are there any similarities between tennis and being a coxswain?
Yeah. There's a lot of planning in everything you do. In tennis, you're placing shots and trying to think what your opponents are going to do before they do it. In rowing, it's similar. There's a boat right alongside you, and you're not sure if they're going to take off and sprint to the end or relax before starting (the sprint). Also, you have to plan for any unexpected bad things that happen. Like earlier this year, a University of Oregon boat actually ran into one of our boats and sheered off one of our oars.
Really? What happened after that?
They ended up getting disqualified, and we managed to get another oar to the boat. I wasn't actually in that boat, but it was quite a ruckus.
So if my Drew Johnson was to become a coxswain, would it be as simple as stunting his growth?
(Laughs) As I said earlier, you have to have a sense of responsibility. You have to be able to develop a connection with the other rowers. And you have to want to be there. If you don't want to be there, there's no reason to be waking up at 4 in the morning to go to practice.
Have you gotten any nicknames yet?
Yes. My nickname is actually The Bouncer.
The Bouncer? Why?
There's a tradition for the rowing team: when you're a novice, you get a nickname, and you're not allowed to know why until after all the rowers that gave you that nickname have left the school. So I have no clue.
No clue at all why they would call you The Bouncer?
Nothing sticks out. Some of the other novices, I can see where theirs came from. But I'm really not sure about mine.
We call my Drew Johnson by the nickname Drewbie Doo. Think your teammates might go for that?
Is your freshman year going to get a lot worse when that hits the internet?
Could be worse. You could be at UPS. Ba da BOOM!
Ooh, too true.
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