How Johnny Torres has led men’s soccer to be a ‘national powerhouse’
After leading the Creighton men’s soccer team to the College Cup last season, Johnny Torres, BSW’08, is preparing for his fifth season as the team’s head coach. Creighton magazine asked him to reflect on his time at Creighton as a player, a student, an assistant coach and now as leader of the men’s soccer program.
How did you end up coming to Creighton in the first place?
Back in 1992, I was part of an Olympic development program, and the head coach of that group was Bret Simon, then the assistant men’s soccer coach at Creighton. As a high school student, I was trying to figure out where I wanted to go and study and be able to compete.
Once I did take my official visit to Creighton, I realized what the atmosphere was like on campus. I sat in on a class where there was a lot of dialogue between the professor and the students, and everybody knew each other’s names.
I’m delighted that I made that decision back then. And it’s made an influence and an imprint on my life and how it’s been shaped. I couldn’t be happier.
What was your college career like? You and the team were extremely successful.
It was awesome. Being a professional soccer player was always a life-long goal, but academics were important. When I got here, Creighton had already made a name for itself (in soccer). We just had a ball. I have some great memories.
You were drafted in your senior year and played in Major League Soccer for several years. Were you thinking about coaching or returning to Creighton?
I never knew exactly what I wanted to do after I was done playing. I was a soccer junkie, and I wanted to have soccer in my life. Thankfully, I was invited and recruited a second time by Bob Warming to come back and finish my degree while helping as a student manager. I just loved it.
That’s when I figured out, “Wow, I could really do this.” I really enjoyed giving back to the student-athletes in the same way that our coaches did for me back in the ’90s. I decided this is what I wanted to do. I stayed on as an assistant coach and graduated with my degree in social work in 2008.
It sounds like you were focused on academics from the beginning.
I was adopted at 9 years old. Growing up in Colombia in the ’80s — before I was adopted — I dreamt of being a pro soccer player. But I knew my adoptive parents were not going to let me leave Creighton without getting as close as possible to graduating. I got drafted during my senior year, but I’m extremely proud that I was able to come back and finish my degree.
What brought you so much success this past season?
When I took the helm, the most important thing was to figure out what our identity was. When COVID-19 hit, it slowed everything a little bit, but we really got to focus on each other. That built the roots and the foundation of what it meant for us to be a team. Then last season, we had our identity, we had our confidence, and we had a lot of energy.
And like anything else — in sports or any part of life — you need a little bit of fortune or luck. And I thought we got that toward the latter part of the season. And, man, that was the beginning of one of the best runs I’ve seen in my entire career.
The success of the past season was fantastic. What is your vision for the program?
We are a national powerhouse. There are high standards. Every time we step on the field, the plan is to win. Not to compete or hold on. We’re there to win.
In my recruiting process, we want to stay a successful program, but first and foremost, I recruit good human beings. I think what makes Creighton special is the community we have. And so for me, it’s pivotal that we bring in quality human beings. Then I look for technical ability and work rate. We want to try and impose ourselves on our opponents and play attractive and exciting soccer for our fans.
How are you feeling this off-season?
I’m feeling great. We’re full of energy, and we have a lot of familiar faces back. And we’ve got some new players coming in, too, which is always fun.