Moving on up

By David Fong

January 26, 2014

By David Fong

Regional Sports Content Director

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — When he graduated from Piqua High School as one of the most-decorated quarterbacks in Indian history, Kevin Johns always figured he’d be back on the sidelines one day as a high school football coach.

“I always thought after college I’d be a high school teacher and coach,” Johns said. “I studied secondary education and I wanted to stay involved in high school football after I graduated.”

Johns was right about becoming a coach — he just didn’t realize at the time it would at the collegiate level. Johns — a 1994 Piqua graduate — recently was named offensive coordinator at Indiana University following the departure of Seth Littrell to North Carolina. Johns previously had served as co-offensive coordinator, along with coaching the quarterbacks and wide receivers.

“I’m thrilled with this promotion,” Johns said. “This is what I’ve always wanted to do since I got into college coaching. From a responsibility standpoint, I’ll be a lot more involved in scripting plays and obviously I’ll be able to call plays during the games.”

Johns led the Indians to the Division I state semifinals as a junior and the Division II state semifinals as a senior. Following his career at Piqua, Johns went on to become the starting quarterback at the University of Dayton as a junior and senior, leading the team to a combined 20-1 record and earning Division I-AA All-American honors his final two years.

Toward the end of his career at Dayton, Johns began shifting his focus from becoming a high school coach to a college coach.

“I didn’t know until the end of my college career that the chance to become a college coach would be available,” Johns said. “That’s when I found out you could become a graduate assistant for a college team while working on your master’s degree. Once I found out about that opportunity, I really started cranking things up. I started making some phone calls and got really serious about my dreams of becoming a college coach.”

Following his graduation from UD, Johns would spend three seasons as a graduate assistant at Northwestern University under head coach Randy Walker — a Troy High School graduate — and offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson, who is now the head coach at Indiana. While at Northwestern, not only did Johns work with the Wildcat offense, but also earned his master’s degree from Northwestern’s School of Education and Social Policy.

Following his stint as a graduate assistant at Northwestern, Johns got his first full-time collegiate coaching job, serving as the University of Richmond’s wide receives coach in 2002 and 2003.

Johns would return to Northwestern in 2004. He would spend two years as running backs coach and the final five as wide receivers coach. He also would becoming the recruiting coordinator from July 2006 until 2008, when he became the Wildcats’ passing game coordinator.

Johns has remained heavily involved in recruiting at Indiana, with his main area of focus being Southwest and Central Ohio — his old stomping grounds.

“I’ll definitely stay heavily involved in recruiting,” Johns said. “It’s fun to get back to the Dayton, Cincinnati and Columbus areas. I know a lot of coaches in the area, obviously. Now I’m meeting with a lot of coaches I played against when I was in high school.”

Johns joined Indiana’s staff in 2011. The past two years, he helped oversee one of the top passing offenses in the Big Ten. In 2012, the Hoosiers led the Big Ten passing offense (311.2 yards per game), which was ranked 17th nationally. The Hoosiers also set school records for passing yardage (3,734 yards), completions (331) and attempts (540).

Last year, the Hoosiers went 5-7, but averaged 38.6 points per game.

“I’m really excited about this opportunity,” Johns said. “It’s a lot of fun coaching in this conference. Growing up, you remember watching Big Ten games every Saturday. It’s kind of cool being a part of that now.”

Contact David Fong at (937) 440-5228 or follow him on Twitter @thefong