WAY OF LIFE
“The most common question I ever get is, ‘What would you do if you weren’t a soccer player?’” says Johnston. “And I make up stuff every single time – it is not consistent, because I have never thought about not playing. I love it.”
At thirteen, her parents sat her down and said, “Look, are you sure this is what you want to do?” Johnston says, “I didn’t grow up with a ton of money and club soccer was expensive, so they wanted to be sure that this was what I was focused on. And I was. Soccer was everything.”
It was also her route to free college. “I knew wherever I went, I wasn’t going to have my parents pay for college, so I’d go on visits and just cross off schools if they didn’t give me a full ride.” But then she fell in love with the coaches and program at Santa Clara, an expensive private school. The program didn’t offer full rides until you’d earned it, but Johnston went anyway, hoping she could earn her way to a full ride by the end of the year.
At the end of the season, she sat terrified in the coach’s office, convinced that she was going to have to transfer because she couldn’t afford it. But coach Jerry Smith was not about to lose Julie Johnston and he found the money to keep her at Santa Clara. “When Julie decides she’s going to do it – she’s going to do it,” says Smith. “She won’t get outworked.
ROOKIE LOVE TALE
While in California, Johnston met Zach Ertz, who played football at Stanford University. Zach was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in 2013 and was a rookie in the NFL at the same time Julie was getting her first call up with the National Team. “He’s in the exact same boat as me – you’re young, but you want to be so great. And everyone’s so good and you just want to do well and be next to them. It’s been so amazing to have Zach there, to have someone who understands as I’m worrying that I’m going to get cut.”
Zach graduated a year before Johnston and the first thing he got from his new Nike rep was a pair of cleats for Johnston; he custom-colored them in Santa Clara maroon and gold and put his number on her cleats. “I totally loved it,” laughs Johnston, “but my teammates really teased me. They’d be like, ‘Ohhh, Ms. Hertz, how’s it going today?’”
“Everywhere I go, wherever I wind up living, no matter where, I always have a place I go run – and that’s my safe place,” says Johnston.
In Mesa, Arizona, where Julie grew up, her place was ‘The Mountain’ – “It’s complete desert, all cactus and rocks, 120 degrees out, but that’s my comfort spot,” says Johnston, who would run up the mountain for summer training. “Once, I tried to bring my dog, ended up having to carry him up the whole way,” laughs Johnston. At the top, there’s a rock with Julie’s name bleached into it. While she claims she didn’t do it, she still thinks of it as “her rock.” “Any time I come home, The Mountain is the first place I go.”
Full name is Julie Beth Johnston … Nicknames are “JJ” or “Jules” … Majored in Communications … Credits her family – mom Kristi, dad David and sister Melanie – for providing tremendous support as she pursues her goals, on and off the field … Her sister played soccer at Grand Canyon University … Her father played football at Louisiana State University … Enjoys cooking and baking, traveling, hanging out with friends and family and doing Pilates … Favorite foods are avocados and sweet potatoes… Favorite dessert is anything chocolate … Favorite movies are “Bridesmaids” and “Warrior” … Favorite TV shows are “Modern Family” and “The Voice” … She was a member of the National Junior Honor Society and the National Honor Society at Dobson High School … Enjoys listening to a wide range of music while training and loves country, rap, hip-hop and alternative … Her hobbies include hiking, rock climbing, fishing, cycling, gardening, photography, cooking/baking, fashion, yoga, Pilates and reading.
A gifted young defender who has been part of the U.S. Soccer program since 2006 when she attended a U-14 National Identification Camp, Johnston found tremendous success with the U-20 WNT, captaining the team to the 2012 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup title … The 2012 U.S. Soccer Young Female Athlete of the Year earned her first cap the next year in 2013 and was a breakout star at the 2015 Women’s World Cup … 2015: A member of the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup champions, she played every minute of all seven games and was named to the FIFA WWC All-Star Team ... Scored five goals in 2015, the first five of her career, by far the most for a defender … Her first three goals all came in consecutive games, from set pieces, and assisted by Lauren Holiday ... Her final two of the year also came off set plays (both corner kicks) … Played and started in 21 games this year, setting career-high in games, starts, minutes, goals and assists (she had one) in a calendar year ... Her first career assist was a huge one, coming against China in the quarterfinal of the World Cup as she connected with Carli Lloyd for the game-winning goal in the 1-0 victory ... Scored a goal against Nigeria in the final game of group play called that was nullified due to a questionable offside call … First showed her ability to be a starter at the Algarve Cup in Portugal (she started three matches) where she scored her first WNT goal early during the USA's 2-0 victory against France in the championship game, helping the U.S. capture its 10th title … She then started 18 of the next 20 games during the year ... Her five goals tied her for most ever in a calendar year for a U.S. defender … 2014: Was initially left off the Women’s World Cup qualifying roster, but was added after an injury to Crystal Dunn … Made three substitute appearances for the WNT in the latter half of the year, featuring in friendlies against Mexico and Switzerland as well as getting some time against China PR in the International Tournament de Brasilia … 2013: Earned her first senior cap in a 4-1 win against Scotland on Feb. 9 … Played her first full 90 minutes at the international level against the Netherlands on April 9 in the center midfield and had a goal called back that was likely legal … Youth National Teams: The 2012 U.S. Soccer Young Female Athlete of the Year … A member of the full WNT and U-23 WNT player pools … The captain of the U.S. team that won the 2012 FIFA Under-20 Women’s World Cup in Japan … She won the Bronze Ball as the third-best player in the tournament, a rare honor for a defender … Marshaled a U.S. defense that defeated three extremely talented group winners in the knockout rounds of the tournament, downing Korea DPR, Nigeria and Germany in the quarterfinal, semifinal and final, respectively, while allowing just one goal … Started all six games of the U-20 Women’s World Cup and played all but 32 minutes of the tournament … A member of the team that won the 2012 CONCACAF Under-20 Women’s Championship and earned a berth to the 2012 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in Japan … Played in three games in the qualifying tournament and scored three goals, including one in the 4-0 semifinal victory over Mexico that sent the USA to Japan … Scored a goal against Switzerland at the La Manga tournament in Spain in 2012 … Finished her U-20 career with 19 caps and four goals … Attended U.S. Under-18 Training Camps in 2010 and 2011 … Attended the U.S. Under-14 National Identification Camp in 2006. First cap: Feb. 9, 2013 vs. Scotland First goal: March 11, 2015 vs. France
2015: Played in 14 matches, starting 13, over 1,215 minutes and was named to the NWSL Best XI … Had two assists … Was a finalist for the league Defender of the Year … 2014: Signed her first professional contract with the Chicago Red Stars after being selected with the No. 3 overall pick in the NWSL Draft… Started all 21 games she played for the club, tying for third in games played … Was second in starts (21) and minutes played (1,890) only to WNT teammate Lori Chalupny … Named the 2014 NWSL Rookie of the Year … Scored two goals, the first one of the season for Chicago and the last one … Also had two assists … Youth: Played U-9 through U-12 for Arsenal GSC … Played U-13 through U-19 for Sereno Soccer Club … Won the state title nine times with Sereno Soccer Club … Was a captain at Sereno.