Runs Track For Baylor
Despite—or perhaps because of—his relaxed approach to competition, Johnson was recruited by coach Clyde Hart to run track for Baylor University in Waco, Texas. Hart was particularly taken by Johnson's stable upbringing, good grades, and solid maturity, qualities he felt would make the runner a natural leader on Baylor's relay teams. However, it was not long before he was able to see even greater potential in Johnson. In his very first 200-meter race at Baylor, Johnson broke the school record with a time of 20.41 seconds. By the time he graduated from Baylor with a bachelor's degree in accounting and marketing in 1990, Johnson had become the top-ranked runner in both the 200- and 400-meter sprints, the first man ever to hold a dual top ranking in both these events.
Johnson began running track professionally shortly after his graduation from Baylor. He quickly made a name for himself in track circles. In the 400-meter sprint, he was virtually unbeatable, and in the 200-meter he won the world championship in 1991, beating the field by a third of a second. Outside the Olympics, Americans pay only minimal attention to track and field events and the sport's leading competitors. As a result, Johnson first attained stardom among European and Asian fans of the sport. Back home he was far from being a household name. Discussing his low profile in America, Johnson told the New York Times: "When I'm in Europe and everybody knows who I am, and everybody wants an autograph and wants to shake your hand, you sometimes worry about going out. It's kind of relaxing to come home and not have to worry about that. But it's frustrating to know that I'm the best in the world in two events, and there are guys in other sports who are good but not the best, and they have $3 million contracts. It's kind of tough. But I look at the positive side. I've traveled, seen the world. I could be a great writer and not make $3 million in a lifetime."
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