Maiden QB elected Beta president

Maiden High School's quarterback is right at home in his Blue Devil uniform, throwing passes to his teammates and running for touchdowns on crisp fall nights.

But junior Matthew Johnson is also equally comfortable in his black Beta Club T-shirt, juggling service projects and running for a statewide leadership position.

Johnson, the Catawba Valley Athletic Conference offensive player of the year, was recently elected as North Carolina state Beta Club president.

Johnson's election made him Maiden High's first state officer in about eight years.

"Football is my favorite thing in the world, but I know that football will eventually end for me," Johnson said. "It's about doing other things you love, too."

Johnson is one of about 120 students in Maiden's Beta Club, a service-oriented organization that requires students to volunteer and maintain a certain grade point average. Beta Club advisor Jennifer Harrison and students in the club attended the Beta Club conference, where the club's 1,500 state members and leaders talk about the organization's goals and elect statewide officers.

Harrison encouraged Johnson to run for president.

"Matt is a very well-rounded person," she said. "I know this other side of Matt (off the football field), and I wanted people to see that."

Johnson agreed to run. Throughout the conference, he networked with other North Carolina students, wore a suit for the entire event, performed a skit and spoke to delegates about why he would make a good state president.

"It was my type of thing — meeting new people and talking to them," Johnson said of his election at the Beta Club district convention last weekend. "I felt like I was in my comfort zone."

Two other students ran against Johnson for the presidency, but he won the election.

"I"m excited about it," Johnson said. "But I also know I'm not alone. I've got a lot of support from everyone."

Johnson said he didn't expect to win the election, and for Harrison, that modesty is part of what makes Johnson a great leader.

"He was so humble and surprised when he won," Harrison said.

As president, Johnson will lead state Beta Club meetings and organize a statewide service project for all Beta Clubs in North Carolina. Johnson hasn't decided on a service project yet, but with the support of Maiden High students and other area clubs, he said "the possibilities are endless."

Football season ended in November for the Blue Devils, but Johnson continues to use the skills he learned as the team's quarterback in his new Beta Club leadership role.

"I'll express what I have to say, but I'll also listen to what you have to say," Johnson said, adding communication is key among any group, club or sports organization. "You win and you lose as a team."

Maiden head football coach Brian Brown said his quarterback's election is a victory for Johnson, as well as the school's football team.

"When you have someone who's intelligent, it makes things easier for you (as a coach), " Brown said. "More importantly, he has the respect of his teammates."

Johnson's election is further proof that he isn't just a first-rate football player. He has plans to excel on the football field as a Division I player in college, but he knows that also requires him to excel in the classroom during his remaining years in high school.

Johnson is ready to accept that challenge.

"It makes me mad," Johnson said of stereotypes about athletes. "I get aggravated. I just use it as fuel for the fire. I'm more than just a quarterback."