2016 Daily World Male Athlete of the Year: Artimus Johnson

At the Grays Harbor Football Camp in June, there was one player who stood out to almost every coach. Maybe it was his quick cuts and burst of speed or maybe it was because he was always first in line for every drill and stayed after to ask for advice on how to improve.

Hoquiam senior Artimus Johnson showed flashes at that camp of the type of season he was about to have on the football field. Johnson averaged 162 yards a game as he rushed for 1,790 yards and scored 18 touchdowns. He was a threat out of the backfield for 529 yards receiving and four touchdowns.

Johnson even scored on the defensive side of the ball twice while racking up a sack, one interception and two fumble recoveries. The 5-foot-8 linebacker finished the season with 158 total tackles and 12 tackles for loss.

However, every tackle, every yard and every touchdown was earned long before the season began with plenty of hard work.

“He is working constantly,” Hoquiam head football coach Rick Moore said of Johnson. “He just can’t get enough. He is never satisfied with where he is at. He is one of those who wants to just keep striving.”

Johnson’s hard work made him a success in 2016 on the wrestling mat, on the track and on the football field and the recipient of The Daily World’s Male Athlete of the Year.

The end of the 2015-16 wrestling season may be one of the biggest sources of inspiration for Johnson. He experienced heartbreak at the regional and state level to start the year and now is wrestling with a new fire to avenge any losses.

In the regional final at 170 last season, Johnson was ahead 4-0 with just seconds left in the match when he gave up an escape and near fall points to lose by the slimmest of margins. The loss would have been enough heartbreak to power most wrestlers through their senior year, but Johnson got another dose when he lost in the second round at the Mat Classic one week later.

Johnson battled back in a fashion worthy of the title “Athlete of the Year” as he went the distance in earning victories in his next three consolation matches at state and claimed third place with a 6-3 win over Royal’s Darrin Miller.

As the clock ran out on the match against Miller, Johnson showed off his trademark grin and pumped a fist in the air in exaltation. Now, he hopes to end the season giving a big smile as a state champion and those who track wrestling around the state will tell you he is on a good path to making a title a reality.

Johnson is ranked first in the state by Washingtonwrestlingreport.com at 182 pounds and hasn’t allowed many opponents to survive into the second round. In the final at the Montesano Invitational on Dec. 22, Johnson needed just 24 seconds to coral and pin his challenger.

After trying to pin his opponents to the mat last winter, Johnson worked to see how high he could fly in the spring. He excelled in both the 300-meter hurdles and the pole vault while competing in track and field in 2016. Johnson finished second in the 300 hurdles at the district meet and was part of the 4×100 meter relay that finished eighth in the state.

Through summer workouts and weightlifting, Johnson remained focused on the football season ahead and from the first time he touched the ball in a game, he added another level to the Grizzly offensive attack.

“You take that piece out of the equation and we still have speed and talent, but we would lose that high octane gear,” Moore said. “Teams that are successful are teams that can run the ball when the other teams know you are going to run the ball.”

Johnson’s average shows the tenacity he ran with all season long, but he was just as valuable as the middle linebacker for Hoquiam.

“Since he started three years, the kids get a pretty good grasp of the scheme and he just had a natural instinct to get to the ball, whether it was the far side of the field or right at him,” Moore said. “Every film you watch him he is flying to the ball and taking guys on bigger than him and getting rid of them. It is just because he is playing at a different speed than everybody else.”

Not only the Evergreen 1A League, but the state took notice of Johnson’s talent last season. He was named the league MVP and received the third most votes for the Associated Press 1A Player of the Year. In December, he was honored as December’s male WIAA Student Spotlight student-athlete.

The player of the year voting was just a little bit of validation and recognition for the special year Johnson had in 2016 as he continues to strive to get better.

“He wants to be exceptional,” Moore said. “He is a prime example of hard work pays off.”

2016 Daily World Male Athlete of the Year: Artimus Johnson