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Southlake Style

The Great Dane

Oct 16, 2013 09:20AM ● By Mike

Dragon athletics legend Dane Johnson graduates from high school star to high school coach. Photo by Bludoor Studios.

By Robert Halliman

The Dragon tradition runs deep. Many legends have walked the halls of Carroll High School, making their marks on what the Dragon family looks to protect. However, few have accomplished more than Dane Johnson. Now a husband, father, leader and man of faith, “Great Dane” excelled as a Dragon in a way only one word can describe: champion. Winning three championships at Carroll in two different sports (basketball and football), Johnson established himself as a hometown hero and legend in ways no one else in the school’s illustrious history has been able to match. More recently, after accepting a coaching job in 2012 at one of his alma mater’s biggest rivals, Flower Mound High School, Johnson traveled full circle on his journey from high school star to Texas Tech University football great to high school football head coach and now Carroll Dragon Athletic Hall of Honor member.

Johnson accepted the head coaching position at Flower Mound after a three-year head coaching stint at South Texas’s 2A Boerne High School, which he led to the playoffs in 2011. At the time of his acceptance, Flower Mound’s only head coach in school history, Cody Vanderford, had been reassigned to an athletic coordinator position after coming off a disappointing 3-7 season. After a victorious opening game in his debut as Jaguar headman, Johnson hit a few bumps in the road, ending the season with a 3-7 record. He says he had a lot of adjusting to do when it came to his first year coaching at the 5A level.

“There are a lot of similarities and differences,” he explains about coaching at Flower Mound versus Boerne. “The big difference is really the numbers; there are three times the kids at Flo Mo than at places like Boerne. Also, North Texas football is different than in the rest of the state. The competition level is high; it’s tough; and you have great athletes, great coaching and great programs.”

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Johnson says his time spent growing up in Southlake helped sculpt his coaching outlook and philosophy.

“I use lessons I learned from Coach Ledbetter, Coach Cook and Coach Burke,” he says of his Carroll football, basketball and baseball coaches, respectively. “I love their philosophies. They engrained in my head things like: every rep could be your last; don’t take it for granted; work to be the best at everything you do.” Johnson views these not just as sports lessons, but also as life lessons. He also credits the community in which he grew up in as something he learned much from.

“Everybody in the Southlake community — family, teams, teachers — want the same thing and believe in the same thing,” he says. “The community being there makes the experience admirable.”

Johnson, now married to wife, Jill, and father to 8-year-old Samuel and 5-year-old Selah, grew up in Southlake for the better part of the ’80s and early ’90s and is amazed at how much his hometown has changed. Since the days when he led Carroll to two 3A football state championships at running back and defensive back — which earned him First Team All-State honors in 1992 and 1993 and a scholarship to Texas Tech — Southlake has undergone a transformation.

“I was driving through Southlake the other day and everything is gone; so much has changed,” he recalls. “We used to hang out at friends’ houses that aren’t even there anymore. There was a yogurt place called the Dragon’s Den — it’s gone. Everything is so much different, but the memories are still there.”

Johnson also won a state championship as a basketball player for the Dragons in 1993 and was a member of both the track and field and baseball teams, making him a rare four-sport athlete — most student athletes play only one or two sports.

“It was awesome,” he says, reflecting on his successes in the Carroll athletics program. “It was such a special time. You don’t think of it as much then, but now you look at it and realize it was very special. I still have a good relationship with the coaches I had.”

As a key member of two state championship teams and an important part of what has become a football dynasty, Johnson speaks with authority about the legacy that Dragon football has built for itself. The program is on its way to being tied for second place for the most high school football championships in Texas state history at seven. Johnson realizes that the reputation the Dragons have now is one that is envied throughout the state of Texas.

“Every job I’ve had, everyone looks up Southlake’s model,” he says. “People reference it, seeing all the great achievements. The kids and the town take pride in being successful.”

He also adds that success breeds competition, as teams look to knock off Southlake at every turn.

“Being an athlete in Southlake, you learn to compete at a high level every single day. You have to be on your toes, because everybody wants to beat you. It’s a great tool for a young athlete to learn.”