Aug. 19, 2007
Proctor coach takes over as school's AD
By Rick Weegman
He’s been on the job for less than two weeks
and Rory Johnson’s desk is already a mess.
Unlike his predecessor as Proctor activities director,
Rich Petersson, who always kept a tidy workstation, Johnson doesn’t
count organization among his biggest attributes.
But that doesn’t mean Johnson isn’t
prepared to handle the challenges that await him in his new role.
As a longtime teacher and coach at Proctor High School, he’s
in tune with the school and the community.
“I don’t think there’s anybody
[in Proctor] that Rory doesn’t know,” said Petersson,
who was activities director from November 1999 until he retired
in June and was at the school for 31 years. “I didn’t
necessarily know all the kids or their parents, but Rory knows everybody
by their first name. He’s very much a people person.”
Rails football coach Dave Hylla agrees.
“He knows the community very well,”
Hylla said. “He has a relationship with the kids all the way
up from when they are little to when they are seniors in high school.”
Johnson, 51, hopes that’s enough to overcome
the inherent difficulties that activities directors face these days
in an era of low budgets, high costs and a lack of time to deal
with it all.
Johnson, who will still teach health at the high
school two hours per day — a class that he’s taught
at Proctor since 1993 — is considered five-sevenths time in
his job as AD. He’s spent most of his time so far working
on aspects such as coordinating transportation for Proctor’s
six fall sports, collecting athletic participation fees and physical
forms and answering phone calls from players and parents.
Later, duties such as scheduling and hiring officials
and gameday workers will come into play.
It’s a position that he’s desired
to attain for some time, though he freely admits — and others
readily agree — that he’s not an administrative-type
“He may not be the most organized guy, but
he knows where everything is,” Johnson’s youngest son,
Seth, said jokingly.
Organization, by all accounts, was Petersson’s
No. 1 strength. Johnson says he’s still devising a strategy.
“The confusing part is I have to figure
out either my own system on how I want to do things or I have to
figure out how Rich’s system worked on how he did things,”
“I don’t think he’ll have any
choice but be organized,” Petersson added.
Before taking the job, Johnson wanted reassurance
from his family and the school district if it would be OK that he
coached football one more season. He’s beginning his 24th
season as an assistant to Hylla, and Johnson, who also was basketball
head coach for 17 years, considers it special because Seth is a
senior offensive and defensive lineman.
“My son said, ‘Dad, it wouldn’t
upset me if you didn’t coach, but it would upset a lot of
my teammates,’ ” Johnson recalled. “I think I
have a pretty good rapport and a good niche with the kids.”
That’s evident at Proctor football games
and practices. Hylla tends to lean hard on his players, many of
whom saunter back to the jovial Johnson for a pick-me-up.
“Basically [Johnson] will sit you down and
tell you what you did wrong and how you can correct it,” said
senior offensive tackle Landon Lalor, who has been playing under
Johnson’s tutelage since seventh grade. “Hylla, he’ll
rip into you. Coach Johnson will sit you down and talk to you.”
Hylla and Johnson say they’ve found that
to be an effective learning tool for teenagers.
“We’ve always been a good team because
I can chew on a kid and Rory will come and pat him on the back,
and Rory will chew on a kid and I’ll go pat him on the back,”
said Hylla, Proctor’s head coach for the past 27 seasons.
“We work so well together in dealing with kids. But he has
that special ability to work with kids. He knows when a joke is
needed, he knows when to get serious, he knows when he needs to
come down [on a player] and he knows when he needs to lighten up.
A lot of people don’t have that.”
Oddly enough, Hylla, Johnson’s boss on the
football field, now answers to Johnson in the school. That’s
not a difficult situation for either.
“I don’t treat it that way,”
Hylla said. “We’ve had an understanding of each other
for a long time so I don’t think he sees himself in a power
In fact, Johnson is more likely to place himself
on the same level as his students. The Duluth Denfeld graduate says
he lives by the philosophy that his door is always open.
“I tell the kids that the first day of school
— my door’s always open,” he said. “And
it’s not just the door in my classroom, but it’s the
door to my house, too. … Kids come and ask me for advice and
have problems or situations and I don’t mind dealing with
Now, at times in his new job, it might be Johnson’s
turn to ask for advice. Petersson expects that will happen fairly
“I told him ‘Don’t be afraid
to call,’ ” Petersson said. “But I said, ‘Don’t
call before 8 [in the morning].’ ”