SALEM -- Ron Johnson is getting another shot -- this time leading the Quakers.
The former head of the Canton McKinley program was hired Thursday as Salem's new varsity football coach.
"We're extremely exited to have someone with his qualifications not only be interested in the position but to come on board," superintendent Tom Bratten said.
"We were very fortunate. This would've been a huge hire at the end of a season let alone in May to get this kind of caliber coach here."
Johnson was head coach at McKinley from 2008-12 where he made the playoffs in all four seasons and sported a 31-16 record. McKinley was one of just five teams in the state to accomplish the feat in the past four-year span.
"He told us 'football is football,'" Bratten said. "It's played within a certain amount of yard lines, but he said 'It's what people do outside of those lines that make the difference.' That spoke volumes to me."
Johnson emphasized the core values of the Salem community that were so appealing to him when he first became interested in the position.
"First and foremost it's a great academic district," Johnson said. "I'm looking forward to bringing my family to the district. The community has a great set of core values and priorities with their young people."
For Johnson, Salem not only presents the opportunity to coach again, but to teach a new set of kids what he refers to as a "mind, body and spirit program."
"With the mind, it's the academic game plan we bring to the table to help them succeed," he said. "The body is really emphasizing how to take care of and use the body. And the spirit is getting the young men to realize they're part of something bigger than themselves and to give back. It's imperative they give back to the community and to the future of the program."
Bratten and athletic director Greg Steffey were both impressed with the academic track record Johnson brings with him to the Quakers program.
In his four years at McKinley, Johnson's teams were all First Team All-Ohio for academics.
Johnson was controversially non-renewed earlier this year in Canton by a 3-2 vote among their school board. Some of his critics said that despite his success he didn't take the team far enough in the post-season during his tenure.
For Bratten and Steffy, however, any possible concerns quickly dissipated upon their meeting.
"The positive feedback outweighed any concerns ten-fold," Steffey said. "Everyone we talked to spoke extremely highly about him.
Bratten echoed the sentiment.
"In my position there were absolutely zero concerns," he said. "When the whole situation went down at McKinley, 100 percent, not 99 percent, 100 percent of his team signed a petition for him to stay. That says a lot to me regarding a person. He came in and the thing he spoke about least was X's and O's. He talked more about building programs for the kids to be successes in life. That's the kind of person I'd want coaching my own son."
Salem returns 19 lettermen this fall and it will be the team's second season in the Northeastern Buckeye Conference. Salem went 5-5 last season.
"Salem is a great opportunity," Johnson said. "They play in a great football league, and I'm as excited about the community and school as I am everything else. I know when you have a great school and community in place, with those two things a great football team is a direct result."
Johnson will take over an open teaching position at the school along with his coaching duties. Bratten said the school did not create a new teaching position for Johnson. He is a business and career-based intervention teacher.
Johnson replaces the departed Mike Kopachy who resigned after taking Salem to the playoffs in two of his three seasons for personal reasons.
Prior to coaching McKinley Johnson did successful coaching stints at Middletown and Westlake, and also served as running backs coach, special teams coach and recruiting coordinator at the University of Miami Ohio.
"We're going to find out what the kids strengths are," Johnson said. "You got kids who care in Salem. That's the most important thing. They want to be good players, good role models, and they play hard. They are smart kids who care enough to work well, and they'll be easy to coach."
"I can't wait to get there to develop the relationships with them and within the community. I can't think of a finer place to coach."
E-mail B.J. Lisko at firstname.lastname@example.org