Geneseo Republic - Geneseo, IL
  • Johnsen entering Hall of Fame

  • With a coaching career that spans 44-plus years, including 24 and counting in Geneseo, Green Machine assistant coach Larry Johnsen Sr. is joining an elite group of coaches as a new inductee into the Illinois High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
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  • With a coaching career that spans 44-plus years, including 24 and counting in Geneseo, Green Machine assistant coach Larry Johnsen Sr. is joining an elite group of coaches as a new inductee into the Illinois High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
    “It has been a great ride, and, hopefully, it is not over yet,” said Johnsen. “I am very honored with this and it is humbling to say the least just to be part of this group.”
    Johnsen joins former Geneseo football coaches Bob Reade, Vic Boblett, Bill Marks, Rex Millikin, Elmer Reedy and Denny Diericx in the Hall of Fame.
    “I was surprised when I first found out. Just thinking of the other people that I know who are in the Hall of Fame. I feel very fortunate to know these gentlemen,” said Johnsen. “They have been a good influence on me and others in the profession and it is great to be able to work with great people who are Hall of Fame people.”
    Coach Johnsen came to Geneseo in 1968 and began his coaching career at the junior high level for two years.
    In 1970, he moved up to coach the sophomores two years, and then became a varsity assistant under Reade until 1979 when Johnsen took over the reins at the varsity level before stepping down in 1986.
    “I became very interested in coaching in college, and being here in Geneseo and working with the staff at the time reinforced my thoughts and the family atmosphere,” said Johnsen, who first came to Geneseo because of the community.
    “My family was a farming family, so I thought I would go into that, but, in college, my thought changed, and I was fortunate to have really good role models who gave me a positive influence on coaching and how to deal with people.”
    During his time at the helm of the Green Machine, Johnsen totaled 78 wins and 14 losses, and captured a state title and state runner-up honors in back-to-back seasons.
    “When I got to the varsity level, I started thinking about being a head coach, but I didn’t know if it would be in Geneseo,” said Johnsen. “I did have interviews a couple other places before Bob Reade left, but I wanted to be selective because of my family.
    “When it finally happened it was a realization of a dream, and I was very fortunate that I was familiar with a lot of the people and players coming back. That was a real plus for staying in Geneseo.”
    Geneseo claimed runner-up honors in 1981 after the Green Machine lost to Wheaton North, 14-0 in the 4A title game.
    Page 2 of 3 - Johnsen led the Green Machine to the state championship the following year with a 44-36 victory over Springfield Griffin.
    “A lot of my highlights are of being in the playoffs and winning a state championship and state runner-up, but also each year there were several highlights watching teams progress and how they played the game,” said Johnsen. “Another highlight was the people I had the opportunity to work with every year.”
    Coach Johnsen said his philosophy as a coach was the same as what was already established by his predecessors.
    “It was to improve each and every day; do the best you can,” he said. “Also to obey the law and be gentlemen on and off the field. We emphasized this, and we still do.
    “We also tried to teach them football is not the No. 1 thing in their life, it can’t be. Faith, family, friends and community are first. There are a lot of things that should be a higher priority than football.”
    Coach Johnsen said he always wanted to focus on trying to be successful and what it takes to be successful.
    “Success is not given to you. You earn what you receive, and sometimes it doesn’t work out,” he said.
    “I was very fortunate with the coaches who worked with me — we all understood what we were trying to do, and the players understood, too, so that helped us meet those challenges a lot easier with us all being on the same page.”
    After leaving Geneseo, Johnsen went on to serve as an assistant coach at Augustana College from 1986 to 2006.
    “I was looking for a little bit of a different challenge,” he said of leaving Geneseo. “I didn’t approach it as wanting to be a head coach in college, but to see if some of the things we did at the high-school level would work in college.”
    In 2007, Johnsen returned back to where it all started in Geneseo as a volunteer coach under his son, Larry Johnsen Jr.
    “Larry and I got to talking, and he opened the door for me to be a volunteer coach at Geneseo, and we both thought our personalities would allow it,” he said. “ I enjoy the atmosphere, it gives me something to do, and it is something to look forward to. I enjoy the game very much and the people I work with.”
    Even though coach Johnsen has been around the game for years, he is still learning.
    “You have to learn new things to be current, but the game is still based on fundamentals,” he said. “That is still the building block for success.
    Page 3 of 3 - “It means a lot to have come back because I had a great experience before with the people and the atmosphere has not changed. The community atmosphere and the involvement of the community makes this special. One of the great experiences is to be on the field on Friday night.”
    Johnsen will be inducted into the Illinois High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame April 12 at the IHSFCA Clinic in Champaign.
    “It is a great feeling,” said Johnsen. “I have received notes from coaches and former players,” said Johnsen. “The people make it very special.
    “I am very fortunate in my career to be associated with extraordinary people and that starts with (wife) Bonnie and the family we share, and the players and coaches over the years,” said Johnsen. “It is fulfilling when former players come back and share with you their success.
    “There are a lot of great people in this profession that hopefully have a positive influence with the people they are working with, and hopefully the young people appreciate their efforts.
    “I am very fortunate with the people in Geneseo and Augustana because sometimes you hear stories of situations that are not as good, but these 40 some years have been a great experience.”
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