CLINTON – His name is one that, without fail, draws a double-take from at least one confused spectator when announced over the PA system at sporting events.
David Johnson, one of the River Kings' top runners this season, shares the first and last name of perhaps the most decorated athlete to come through Clinton High School, as the elder Johnson has ascended into one of the most skilled rushers in all of professional football.
Johnson, a junior, has emerged this season as a standout weapon for the CHS track and field team, turning in a campaign that already features a two-event appearance at the Drake Relays.
Next on the list? The state meet, which would serve as a repeat trip to Des Moines for Johnson, who is beginning to forge his own identity in River King red and black.
"David is starting to see what he can do," Clinton coach Kellen Schneeberger said leading up to the Drake Relays.
Johnson is as self-aware as any student-athlete around the area, a young adult that is proud of his faith and treats both his teammates and opponents with genuine respect.
"I learned a lot about myself [this season] as an individual," Johnson said at the Ira Dunsworth Relays in Davenport last month. "I learned a lot about mental toughness, physical toughness and being a good sportsman because nobody likes a jerk. You always have to be commendable, mannerable and respectful to others... There are people out there giving it their all and you're giving it your all, too."
Johnson will likely compete in four events at the state-qualifying district meet Thursday in Dubuque: the 4x100 and 4x400 relays and 100- and 400-meter dashes.
The 4x400, of which Johnson runs the first leg, is one of the River Kings' best chances of sending an event to state, as the group, which also includes Sean Hammond, Matt Swamberger and Ulysses Patterson currently ranks fourth among Thursday's talented field.
The top two place winners in each event at districts earn an automatic state berth while 12 more places are distributed throughout the rest of the 4A field, which yields a waiting period as results trickle in from competing teams across the state.
Schneeberger said Johnson's impending success stems from an infectious desire to improve each and every day.
"David is an absolutely great kid that never has a bad day," Schneeberger said. "He is always on the positive side, he is very into his faith, his family is really supportive. He just comes every day with his lunch pail, every day and every meet."
Waiting is stressful – there is no denying it. But the virtue of patience is one exercised frequently in track and field, as athletes often must wait to see where they land (see: Drake Relays) rather than receiving an immediate verdict like most other sports. Through it all, though, Johnson has been a sturdy leader.
"It's most important to be a leader," Johnson said. "Because everyone gets down, even the leaders, so it's up to you to pick yourself as well as your teammates. We're a team, we're a family that works together as one. Once you give your best, you can live with the results and not feel guilty."
Johnson also figures to produce team points in the 400 dash, where he currently ranks sixth among those he will see Thursday. Johnson's best time (51.87) trails second-place holder Will Eastman (50.67) by just over a full second and third-place Will Burds (51.03) by even less than that.
But Johnson's focus does not revolve around those flanking him on the track.
"When you stay focused, the rest will come," he said. "You have to focus on yourself, because when you get caught up on another opponent, you can start thinking to yourself, 'Oh, I have to beat them' or 'I have to keep up with them' when really it is about running your race and focusing on yourself and the rest will come naturally."