Curtis Johnson fully understands the tradition of Fremont High School. He is an alum of the school as well as their veteran football and baseball coach.
A student-athlete during his years at Fremont, Johnson discovered the joys of coaching when he had to fill in for his son’s T-Ball coach who was out sick.
“Me and the coach had played on the same softball team, so I stood in as a coach,” Johnson said. “I had fun out there and I started showing up every day, not just to watch practice, I started being a part of the practice.”
Johnson is one of the original coaches of the RBI program, an organization created to encourage African American youth to play baseball. The RBI program was founded by late MLB great John Young.
In 1999, Johnson became the football coach at Fremont, he was already coach of the Washington Prep JV baseball team at the time. He soon was fired from coaching at Washington Prep, but already had a coaching job lined up for the Fremont baseball team.
With the athletes on both the baseball and football team, Johnson cultivates a light atmosphere, allowing them to refer to him as ‘Coach Curtis’ instead of a more formal ‘Mr. Johnson.’
“We don’t relate well with each other as a generation, the adults and the kids,” Johnson said. “I joke around with the kids, it keeps me being a part of, too. Not just I’m here and you’re there, no we’re here together.”
He never cuts athletes from the teams because he sees it as an opportunity for him to be a positive impact on their lives. Johnson wants his players to win as well as become good people.
“All our lessons are really not about sports, sometimes it’s a light lesson,” Johnson said. “Sometimes a kid needs someone to talk to about everyday situations.”
The legacy of the Fremont baseball team is his favorite part of coaching baseball. Phil Pote initiated this legacy back when he was coaching Bob Watson, Willie Crawford, and Bobby Tolan. They won the 1963 CIF City Section Championship and the three players ultimately became major league baseball players.
“The Fremont tradition in baseball is unbelievable, Fremont has more kids in major league baseball than any other school in the United States,” Johnson said. “We’ve been real active in baseball over the years.”
One of Johnson’s Fremont teammates was Eric Davis, who had a 17-year career in the MLB. Johnson passes on the traditions he learned as a Pathfinders athlete to his students.
“It means a little more to me than the average coach because I’m a part of that history,” he said. “When I’m out there, I care more about uplifting, representing Fremont more than just a guy that’s in the neighborhood.”
Johnson spent his years coaching youth football, he coached Stafon Johnson who went on to play for USC and is now the head coach of the Dorsey football team.
“I was Stafon’s first tackle football coach,” Johnson said.
He also coached Mil’Von James who is currently the head coach of the Inglewood football team.
“Mil’Von came to Fremont the same year I did,” Johnson said. “He came as a player and I came as a coach.”