Wildcat signs with Whitecaps
Local connections through his coach Alan Koch have landed Baker University senior Marty Johnston in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Koch, Baker's men's soccer coach, played for Simon Frazier University, which is located in Vancouver, has believed Johnston could play professional soccer since he took over the Wildcats last season.
"Pretty much every time he stepped on the field, he showed that he was capable of playing at the next level," Koch said. "I contacted the Whitecaps and had no problem recommending him."
Koch was correct. Johnston signed a one-year contract to play professionally for the Vancouver Whitecaps of the United Soccer Leagues. The announcement was made Monday afternoon at a small press conference at Baker's Collins House.
"I would like to thank everyone for coming," Johnston said at the press conference. "I really appreciate it. I am just happy that I've gotten to experience all of these things at Baker. It's been great, not only as a soccer player but as an individual here. That's what Baker is all about."
He was excited to sign the contract, because he wasn't sure of his status with the team before it was offered.
"I was thrilled," Johnston said of signing the contract. "I was pretty nervous because I wasn't sure where I stood. It feels great to get that off my shoulders."
Johnston acknowledged that his coach started the process that led to his announcement Monday.
"Coach Koch has connections and he thought I was able to play at that level," Johnston said. "So I went up to Vancouver in February for some training sessions. I came back then they invited me back to their training camp. So during the past week, I was up there playing three preseason games with them. I scored a couple goals did pretty well, so they offered me a contract."
Koch said Johnston's signing is a little extra special for him, because some of his former college teammates play for the Whitecaps.
"It's extra special for me because I played for Simon Frazier University and he will get to play with a couple of the guys that I played with in college," Koch said. "They are some of the older guys and he'll be one of the younger guys. Hopefully he can learn a lot from them and hopefully they won't share too many of my college stories."
Several family members joined Johnston at the press conference. His father, Stan Johnston, was thrilled to see what his son has done with his life since coming to Baker in 2003.
"Marty has worked very hard to get to this day," S. Johnston said. "Just him having this opportunity is a big credit to coach Koch and his connections with the Whitecaps. It's pretty amazing.
"I am very proud and our whole family is very proud," S. Johnston said. "You always think it's possible but it's such a long shot to become a professional athlete. I am just so pleased Marty was able to come to Baker from Blue Valley North and play for four years, have a great career and graduate on time. It's really a testament to him."
Johnston, a forward from Leawood and a Blue Valley North graduate, ranks fourth all time in goals scored at Baker. He scored 22 goals as a sophomore.
During his career, Johnston received numerous honors for the Wildcats. He was named first-team All-Heart of America Conference, all-region and received All-American honorable mention.
"He has been a remarkable contributor to the Baker soccer team on and off the field," said Theresa Yetmar, Baker assistant athletic director. "He finished his career with 53 goals and 20 assists, while maintaining a 3.2 grade point average."
Koch took over the Baker program in 2006 and completed his first season as the Wildcats' head coach in the fall. Although he only coached M. Johnston for one year, Koch could tell he had the talent to play at the next level.
"I am very, very proud," Koch said. "Of course it's always a big achievement for any player to go play professionally. To make the jump from college to pro is fantastic. I knew he could do it, but you never know. He went out there and showed them that he could take care of business at that level."
M. Johnston said he will remember the rivalry games that Baker had against Lindenwood University and William Jewell College.
"All of the Lindenwood games were memorable," Johnston said. "They were always close, hard fought battles. But I will definitely remember the William Jewell games. We were so excited to play them, because of the rivalry and competition."
Johnston will graduate in May with a bachelor's degree in psychology with an emphasis in research and communication.
"I've been talking to some professors and I am going to try and accelerate some work," Johnston said.
Although he will graduate from Baker, Johnston doesn't believe he will be able to attend his commencement ceremony in May.
"I doubt it because my schedule will be pretty hectic," Johnston said of returning for commencement. "It probably won't work out for coming back. If there was any other reason, it would be upsetting."
The Whitecaps regular season begins April 21 as they hope to defend their 2006 USL championship.
"They are all really good guys and the coach has been in the league for about five years," M. Johnston said. "He knows what he is doing and he is a really good coach. There is a lot of experience on the team, so I'll be able to learn a lot from them."
M. Johnston will be moving to Vancouver Friday. His father said he is hoping to watch his son practice before he returns home. He is ready for the season to begin, as he plans on viewing the games over the Internet.
"I am driving him up this weekend," S. Johnston said. "I will probably get to see one of the practice games before I go back. Luckily every game is on the Internet, so I've already bought the Internet package. I will watch as many games as I can. I know some of his siblings are already planning trips up this summer."
M. Johnston is ready to begin his new life outside of Baker.
"I love the Pacific Northwest," Johnston said. "It's a great area and the summers up there are great. I am excited about moving up there."