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Training Ground For Life

WRITTEN BY James Johnson
WRITTEN BY James Johnson

Former Football Student-Athlete (2001-05)
Walmart Director of Seasonal Marketing

When I take time to reflect on my time as a student-athlete and the events since I graduated, there are so many memories and experiences that come flooding back.  I realize that my time at the University of Arkansas as a Razorback shaped more of my life than I ever thought possible.

Growing up in Hot Springs, Arkansas, I couldn’t imagine the path that my life would take. I couldn’t have predicted I would live in Springdale with my amazing wife Kortney and our beautiful girls Ryleigh and Reagan. I never imagined I would lead seasonal marketing at the largest company in the world, Walmart. I also never could have imagined that the ups and downs during my time at Arkansas could have prepared me so well for the ups and downs of life.

My career as a Hog was derailed a few times by injury. Multiple knee and shoulder surgeries made it difficult to consistently compete for playing time. It was a very frustrating time. The words of one of my coaches stuck with me, “You don’t always get dealt a great hand in life, but you better make the most of the one you’re dealt.” Thankfully, I had a great support network around me. From family and friends, to the athletic training staff, to the academic advisors, and many more, I was able to continue to work towards my ultimate goal which was to graduate. In fact, I was able to focus my academic efforts into getting my Masters in Business Administration before I completed my career at Arkansas. The path wasn’t always perfectly straight or easy, but with perseverance and the support of those around me I was able to achieve that dream and much more.

James Johnson

My teammates and I still joke about the times that Coach Houston Nutt would tell us that “these are the best days of your life.” We would all laugh him off, or roll our eyes exasperatedly, especially when he said it during a conditioning workout at 5:45 a.m. It wasn’t until later that I think I figured out just what he meant. They weren’t the best because it was the most fun, the most memorable, or even the most carefree (the days before you had the stress and responsibility of “real” life). They were the best because it was the time that you learned how to prepare for and persevere through whatever the rest of your life throws at you. If you could make it through the physical, mental, and emotional toll of being a collegiate athlete and add on top of that the responsibilities of being a student, you could make it through just about anything in life. It taught you how to work hard. It taught you how to be a part of a team. It taught you how to make a plan and execute it, but be prepared for when the path takes an unexpected turn.

James Johnson

My time as a Razorback also helped me build lifelong friendships. Getting together with old teammates and other former student-athletes at Razorback games, reunions and other functions has been a great way to stay connected. The A Club, which is our former letterwinners club, has been a great way to keep in touch with former players and the University of Arkansas. The relationships I’ve built have benefited me both professionally and personally. The opportunity to network with other former student-athletes, coaches, and others who have gone on to success in so many areas has been an awesome experience and has opened so many doors for me.

If I could give some advice to current student-athletes, it would be to make the most of the amazing opportunities you have been given to set yourself up for success. The lessons you are learning now about life in general will stay with you forever. Build relationships and keep in touch with those people in your network, you never know when they could help you or you could help them. Lastly, enjoy your time as a Razorback; it goes by quicker than you think.

James Johnson