Graduate Lorenzo Johnson: From NAU track athlete to dad, how one student’s journey took a turn for the best

By Carly Banks
NAU Communications

Meet Lorenzo Johnson.

Undergraduate program: Marketing
Campus: Flagstaff Mountain

At the age of nine, Lorenzo Johnson knew he wanted to run track in college. Thus began a decade of intense training in hopes of being good enough to earn a scholarship. But at the beginning of his senior year at Serra High School in San Diego, a pinched sciatic nerve in his back meant his dreams of being recruited by a four-year university seemed impossible.

He had worked too hard to lose it all.

Despite the doctor’s orders, he pushed through the pain and relied on three sessions of physical therapy a week to help manage his injury. At the end of the season, Johnson not only hit scholarship marks, but was the No. 1 300-meter hurdler in the area—the scholarship offers began to pour in. Deciding which one to accept wasn’t a tough decision, he knew he belonged at Northern Arizona University.

Lorenzo Johnson runs track

Due to the worsening pain in his back, Johnson decided if he wanted to run again, he needed to allow himself time to heal. He planned to take his freshman year off to recover, then get back to focusing on his running and hurdling career. But life had other plans for him.

Johnson’s daughter, Aiyana, was born at the beginning of his sophomore year. Suddenly, he found himself dividing his time between competing as a Division 1 athlete, taking 21 credit hours a semester and working more than two jobs while raising his daughter as a single father with full custody.

“Since my daughter’s birth, I find myself living by the motto, ‘you can’t prepare for everything, but you can work through anything.’ It’s something I came up with to remind myself that I am not only working for myself, but for all of those who look up to me. This includes all of the track and field athletes back at my high school; my twin baby brothers, Liam and Luke; and most importantly, my daughter.”

Next week, Johnson will graduate with his undergraduate degree after just three years. He knows that if he can survive what life has thrown his way this far, he can survive anything.

Lorenzo Johnson and daughter

He has big plans for his future. After graduation, he will start the master’s in human resources program at NAU and continue running track and field. Like his undergrad, he hopes to finish the degree early—earning both his undergraduate and master’s degrees in a total of five years. After graduate school and getting some corporate work experience under his belt, he hopes to open his own business.

“I am still figuring out what specific industry I want to get into, but I know no matter what it is, it will involve giving back to the community, both locally and internationally. At the end of the day, my drive to be successful isn’t just for me, it is for all of the loved ones in my life and the people I hope to positively impact. Then and only then will my life goal be achieved because I can die knowing I made a positive difference on a global scale.”

NAU Communications