NATCHITOCHES -- Supporters are invited to attend a 1 p.m. announcement Wednesday as legendary Leon Johnson, track and field coach at Northwestern State since 1982, will discuss his pending retirement from the Demons' athletic program.
The event in the Student Union Ballroom in the center of campus will include NSU President Dr. Randy Webb, athletics director Greg Burke and others who will salute Johnson, a highly successful high school coach in DeRidder and Opelousas before taking the Northwestern State post 31 years ago this month.
"I cannot even begin to express how much Leon has meant not only to the NSU track and field program, but to our athletics department, university, community and the state," said Burke.
Plans are underway for a Nov. 9 track and field reunion, featuring a brunch to honor Johnson before a home football game at NSU that day.
Johnson has coached 57 NCAA Division I All-Americans, including three NCAA or USA Track and Field champions and two USA Olympians, while winning nine conference championships. He is the only active Division I coach to have a home meet named in his honor, since the university rebranded its feature meet each season to The Leon Johnson NSU Invitational.
Johnson started the women's track and field program at NSU in the mid-1980s. He has been the driving force for more than two decades in the annual Louisiana High School Athletic Association Cross Country Championships hosted each November at NSU's Walter P. Ledet Track Complex, drawing tens of thousands of competitors and supporters to the community.
He has volunteered his time and his program's resources to annually assist causes such as Louisiana Special Olympics, the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society and others. Under Johnson's tenure, the Ledet Complex has also hosted countless district and regional high school track and field and cross country competitions.
His retirement will be effective at the end of the month.