It was Trevor Johnson’s great sense of urgency going into his senior year at Lincoln Northeast in 1998 that began the path that ultimately led to a sterling career with the Nebraska football program, four years in the NFL and finally a spot in the Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame.
The 6-foot-4 Johnson broke his leg early in his junior season of football, and he made it back in time to be part of Northeast’s 1998 Class A state championship basketball team, the last of four straight title teams for the Rockets.
“I hadn’t really done anything in high school yet. My goal was to be great, and I basically had one year left to make it happen,” Johnson said earlier this week. “I always had the desire, but I knew at that point it was make it or break it.
“When I was at Northeast, all we did was sports. It was our life back then,” he added. “It was a winning culture we had there, and it was a lot of fun. It was all about competing for Northeast.”
His parents spent the money for him to work with Nebraska Sports Acceleration during the offseason. Intense, individualized total sports training away from school like that was just in its infancy in Nebraska at that time, but looking back, Johnson said it provided the base from which he was able to excel.
“I got in the best shape of my life, I matured and my confidence just exploded,” Johnson said. “I did really well at the Nebraska football camp in the summer, but they wanted to wait to see me play (the beginning of his senior year) before they offered me a scholarship.”
Three games into his senior season the Huskers offered the tight end/defensive end, and he immediately committed.
Johnson led Northeast to a 10-2 record and the semifinals of the Class A playoffs that fall, catching 42 passes for 736 yards and registering 54 tackles, 13 of which were behind the line of scrimmage. He caught 10 TD passes and scored three more on defense.
His basketball career before his senior year amounted to being a physical practice partner for 6-7 Super-State center Mike Hahn, who went on to play at Pacific.
“Football had always been my thing, so Coach (Rick) Collura thought I would be a good candidate to help make Mikey tougher,” Johnson said. “I beat the hell out of him in practice, and sometimes I could sense Mikey’s frustration, but he always told me to keep doing it, that I was making him a better player in practice. He was a guy who cared.”
Johnson was one of the reserves sitting on the bench when Collura played all five of his starters the entire 32 minutes, never subbing when the Rockets beat Omaha Benson in the 1998 state finals.
“I’m sure a coach would get in trouble now if they did something like that, but it wasn’t an issue at all with us,” Johnson said. “It was about the team and our school winning a state championship. We did our job in practice getting those starters ready to play the entire game if needed.”
Johnson was much more involved in basketball as a senior. After going through mononucleosis early in the season, he saved his best for the end. Johnson averaged more than 20 points per game in the postseason, earning third-team Super-State honors after leading the Rockets to the state tournament semifinals.
His standout senior season continued in track as Johnson won the all-class gold medal at the state meet in the discus with a school-record throw of 185 feet, 2 inches.
But Johnson might be better known in track for proving that the portable classrooms that were being used at Northeast at the time might’ve been placed a little too close to the discus ring.
He unleashed a throw in practice right before the district meet that went through a window in one of the classrooms.
Northeast track coach John Snoozy and a physics teacher figured out where the discus finally came to rest in the portable classroom, “it would’ve been a throw over 190 (feet) and maybe 200,” Snoozy said. “I knew then Trevor was probably going to do something special at districts and state, and he broke our school record in both of those meets.”
Johnson went on to start 22 games as a Husker at defensive end, earning team captain honors in 2003 and defensive MVP in the Alamo Bowl that year when NU shut out Michigan State 17-0. He was also NU’s lifter of the year when he was a senior.
He played two seasons for the New York Jets, then bounced from New Orleans to St. Louis to Kansas City in his final two seasons.
What Johnson described as “a really bad concussion” ended his career with the Chiefs in 2008.
“I had a helmet-to-helmet collision in practice that not only dented the helmet, but also the facemask. It was pretty bad,” Johnson said. “I got a second opinion from a doctor outside the organization and he advised me to hang it up. I was fine with that, I was ready to move on.”
Johnson, a four-time Academic All-Big 12 player at NU, entered the business world as a financial adviser in the Omaha area, working first for Edward Jones for eight years before starting his own firm, Trevor Johnson Wealth Management.
His wife, Jaime (Venhaus), is a former Northeast athlete and a member of the Rockets’ sports hall of fame like her husband. They have four daughters: Nora, 8; Kitt, 6; Vera, 5; and Nell, who is 2 weeks old.