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After 48 years MHSAA official Steve Johnson’s miracle career comes to an end

“I loved every minute of it, but the thing is I have to give something back in return,” said Johnson
Published: Sep. 13, 2021 at 8:11 PM EDT
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FLINT, Mich. (WJRT) - If you referee high school sports in the Flint area for almost 50 years like Steve Johnson... you’re sure to have officiated some notable stars.

From Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram to three-time NBA Champion Draymond Green, Johnson has officiated them all.

For 48 years, he ran the sidelines for football, hustled down the court for boys and girls basketball, called strikes in baseball, and refereed in 14 state championship games for MHSAA.

”It’s almost like when you see him come into the gym you know what you’re going to get with him and it kind of puts you at ease,” said Carman-Ainsworth boys head basketball coach Jay Witham.

During his career, Steve lived by one rule get the call right.

“I don’t care who you are I play no favorites,” explained Johnson. “My son comes up to bat. I call him out on a 3rd strike. He looks back at me and he didn’t talk to me for two weeks.”

“It didn’t matter if it was the last two minutes of the game. But after the game, he would say ‘I played it over in my mind and I think I made the right call.’ I say yeah you made the right call. It’s just the way he was,” said former MHSAA official Judge Duncan Beagle.

In 2016, Steve had to blow the whistle on himself and take a step back from what he loved.

“Went over to the pulmonologist, she puts my x-ray up on the wall and she says do you have a will. I said ‘Yeah, I have a will to live,’” said Johnson.

Steve had a tumor in his chest and stomach, diffuse large B cell lymphoma cancer, weight loss, and a battle with chemo-therapy ensued. But a month into his treatment a miracle happened.

“I got a phone call to send a picture to [Dr. Issam Nemeh] and he wanted to pray over my picture,” Johnson explains. “All of sudden about the time he’s praying over my picture I start feeling this feeling that someone is taking a pitcher of warm water across my chest.”

“Next thing you know I go to the oncologist and he says ‘man, you’re in full remission.”

About a year later after his recovery, Steve was back patrolling the sidelines

“If you saw pictures of him and when he was diagnosed and what he had gone through look at him you’d go, ‘he never had that,” said Goodrich boys basketball coach Gary Barns. “But cancer hates you to be positive and it hates you to eat and drink. He did all the things his doctor told him to do and he won.”

After 5 years, Steve is still cancer-free and his resume as one of the greatest referee’s the MHSAA has ever seen is complete.

Now, after 48 years, Steve is hanging up his uniform and give the time he has left to his wife Terri, sons Brad and Brian, and his grandchildren.

Johnson explains, “I loved every minute of it, but the thing is I have to give something back in return.”

Steve Johnson is a fighter, a warrior, and someone to look up to because no matter the game, no matter the situation he always made the right call.

“He’s one of the greats one,” said Witham.

“He never short-changed anybody. I just hope the people that replace him learn from him,” said Barns.

“I think he would have enjoyed having 50 years but I guess 48 ain’t bad,” said Judge Beagle.

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