But how did Johnson, who spent four years in the U.S. Army and then received a bachelor’s degree in public administration from Northern Michigan University, end up where he is today?
Easy. He ran.
“Like a lot of college graduates, I didn’t end up in my career field. Eventually I took the first job I could get — a job with a health insurance company here in Green Bay,” he says. “I didn’t like it, it didn’t suit me very well. I was unhappy and eagerly trying to find something else. So at lunch, I’d run to the job employment office.”
That’s where he found a non-descriptive job posting for temporary construction work. The ad advised interested applicants to seek out Steve in the Lambeau Field parking lot.
“It was outside and it was $1 or $2 more than I was then making… I saw a little more money and outside work and I was there,” Johnson recalls. “I came out after work, met the fella, we hit it off. Turns out they built golf courses and sports fields all over the country. Before that moment, I didn’t even know that was an industry — how would I know?”
Steve and Johnson hit it off, and the next day Johnson quit his job. He began working on a renovation of the stadium as “the kid with the shovel in his hand” and quickly moved up to operating equipment. “I was eager to learn, and grew up on farm equipment,” Johnson adds.
Johnson knew his job was going to end after the summer, and began seeking other opportunities. But he was hired as the assistant field manager before the summer ended. Two years later his boss moved to a different role in the organization, and the former health insurance company employee was now the fields manager for Lambeau Field.
“At that point, I felt I needed further education, so I took Penn State’s program for turfgrass online. (But) much of my learning has also been through peer interaction through my involvement with the Sports Turf Managers Association and through my NFL peers,” Johnson says.
Now, 18 years later, Johnson remains modest when asked about the significance of caring for Lambeau Field. When asked if it’s the most famous football field in the sport, his response is that it depends if you’re a Packers fan.
Regardless, he takes pride in his work, and keeping Lambeau Field looking its best every day.
“To me, it wouldn’t matter where I ended up,” he says, “I take a lot of pride in everything I do.”
View a video interview with Johnson, which includes a discussion of his use of Stadium Grow Lights.