By Mike Max

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — In the late ‘80s, conventional wisdom suggested Bethel would not compete in the MIAC in football.

Back then Steve Johnson showed up, and the Royals are playing in their ninth NCAA playoff.

Now, it’s a hectic week for Johnson, and he loves it. He’s preparing his practice schedule for a playoff game Saturday, and he believes that’s where it all starts: preparation.

“We say: Don’t treat as ordinary what’s consecrated to you…and that’s practice,” Johnson said. “So don’t treat any of that as ordinary.”

His teams are never ordinary – unbeaten this season — because his players care about each other.

“You’re happy together, but sometimes, you know, you got to get after each other,” the coach said. “And if you care about each other, you will.”

That all starts with Johnson, who turned Bethel’s program around about 20 years ago and changed lives in the process.

“He’s awesome,” one of his players said. “You couldn’t find a better coach, a guy who teaches you more about life off of the field, away from the game of football.”

Johnson is, in part, why Bethel wins. And the coach knows exactly what he wants.

“Obedience is the number one deal,” he said.

That – combined with fast and physical play – allows his players to move decisively.

And that’s what Johnson wants every team to get out of every season: the chance to learn, to grow and become better prepared for life.

“The underlying deal: you need to learn how to love,” Johnson said. “That means a lot of stuff. That means forgiveness. Forgive fast. That means honor buddies…fight for each other.”

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