As captain of the men’s basketball team at Vanguard University, Jadyn “JJ” Johnson is one of the most respected student-athletes among his peers, according to Head Coach Rhett Soliday. But it’s not only his athletic prowess that makes him stand out.
As a junior Communication major at VU, Johnson is a student Lion Leader in the Vanguard Champions of Character Class, president of the Student-Athlete Leadership Team (SALT), and a member of Black Student Union. Off campus, he participates in the High 5 Program at local elementary schools and serves as assistant director of Vanguard’s youth summer basketball camps. And despite his busy schedule, he has consistently maintained a 4.0 GPA throughout his academic career.
Johnson attributes much of what he has learned to Coach Soliday himself. “He’s really been great in terms of helping us balance trying to win and also trying to make us better people for the future,” he said of his coach. He particularly admires Soliday’s “upside-down kingdom” approach to leading the team—an image that depicts the leader at the bottom of the pyramid, “serving up”, and being a support system to those within his authority.
Johnson has embraced this leadership strategy in all areas of his involvement on campus. As president of SALT, he and his fellow students take the initiative to make the student-athlete experience on campus more enjoyable. From improving meals in the cafeteria to locating a court for home games while the gym is closed, the student organization is stepping up to leave a lasting impact for athletes at Vanguard.
Soliday reflected on the value he has seen Johnson bring to his community on and off the court: “When I think about today’s climate and the challenges that young adults face in navigating life and culture, we need bold leaders who have the emotional maturity and deep character to ask the right questions…his pursuit of excellence on and off the court has been nothing short of contagious to our student-athletes and staff.”
Off campus, Johnson is already encouraging the next generation to live up to their potential. After welcoming elementary school kids to their campus at a local High 5 event, he had the opportunity to give a motivational speech to the students, in which he focused on the value of education and reminded them that “the work you put into the classroom matters.”
Johnson understands the value of “compound interest” as it relates to speaking to young students. Even though participating in the event meant getting homework done a little early and waking up even earlier, he said that “spending one hour with them for however much longer that effect will be; it motivated [him] to be there.”
“‘JJ is the voice of our team and culture,” said Soliday. “He’s a trustworthy leader with deep faith, incredibly intelligent, and aware in all circumstances.” As Johnson continues his education and pursues his career as a sports broadcaster, his gift for selfless leadership will lead to his making an impact in his industry and community.