Mike Johnston Field at Legacy Stadium
A native of the Houston area, Mike Johnston grew up in Galena Park. His penchant for football was evident during his high school years where he played on the 1964 state finalist football team. While attending Stephen F. Austin State University he continued his love of the game and played linebacker and center for the Lumberjacks. There, he would be coached by future Katy ISD administrators Jack Rhoads and Gordon Brown.
Johnston’s coaching career began at Hull-Daisetta High School. He then worked for Nacogdoches, Beaumont Forest Park and Abilene High Schools before landing in Katy. In 1980, Johnston took the roll of assistant coach at Katy High School and only two short years later, was named head football coach and campus athletic coordinator.
There wasn’t much winning happening when he took the head coaching position at Katy High School. In fact, the culture was such that many were reluctant to show off their school colors. However, Coach Johnston made it his business to be engaged in the lives of his players and his students with whom he came in contact. He made it his goal for every student, and particularly the footballs players, to become ambassadors for their school.
Johnston served as a role model and leader for students and teachers alike. He set high expectations and believed in accountability and attention to detail, which were demanded both on and off the field. There were lessons of sacrifice and teamwork. His program was designed to teach students that they were always capable of achieving more than they realized. It was to develop skills in teamwork, perseverance, coping with failure and pushing one’s self and others beyond their comfort zone.
His character and commitment to excellence created an atmosphere of school pride that carried over in to other extra-curricular activities. A breakthrough season finally came in 1986 when the Katy High School Tigers made the playoffs for the first time in 23 years.
With a career as head coach that extended from 1982 until his retirement in 2003. He led a program’s growth and success that included 13 district titles, five state title appearances and three state championships.
With accolades that extend beyond the state championships, Johnston was the Coach of the Year for the State of Texas, the Houston Touchdown Club, the Houston Chronicle, the Houston Post and seven times for the district. He has given his time to serve as a Director and President for the Texas High School Coaches Association (THSCA). In addition, he was bestowed one of the highest honors from the THSCA and was placed in the THSCA Balfour Hall of Honor. One of his most rewarding accomplishments was when the 2010 Texas Football Magazine Winter Edition hit the newsstands. They listed the Top 50 Coaches in Texas for the First Fifty Years. The list included professional and college coaches, such as Tom Landry and Darrell Royal. Johnston was recognized as #14 on the list.
Mike Johnston became the first high school coach to be inducted as a Gridiron Legend in the same year alongside such greats as Bob McNair, Bum Phillips, Dan Pastorini and Joe Washington.
Johnston brought excitement, enthusiasm and pride to the game of high school football. Moreover, that fervor extended beyond his players and to the fine arts directors and students who absorbed and continued the same lessons of teamwork, individual commitment and a strong work ethic.
His classroom may not have had four walls. His legendary red suspenders were a reminder of the “heart of a champion” and to never give up. Whether Johnston’s teams were competing or practicing during the heat of the day, or in torrential rain, there was always a lesson to be learned, an experience to be had, a demand to expect nothing less than the best from one’s self.