Johnson & Johnson: Clean Success

Greg Thompson | Staff Photographer

Greg Thompson | Staff Photographer
While Brandon scores the goals, Matt stops them. The twins look to lead UCI offensivley and defensively.

José and Ozzie Conseco, Horace and Harvey Grant, Kevin and Kelvin McQueen, Tiki and Ronde Barber —they are among some of the most successful American athletes, who also happen to be twins. Next in line are UC Irvine’s own sophomores Matt and Brandon Johnson, who are tearing up the pool this season and making headlines in the world of water polo.
After struggling at the beginning of the season, the men’s water polo team has come together to unite, which has been a great success, as the team has won seven of their past nine games. Because the team is young and is lacking seniority, there is a leadership void that needs to be filled, and the Johnson brothers are taking a lead, in and out of the pool.
Matt and Brandon Johnson, better known as “Mo-Jo” and “Bo-Jo” are up and in the weight room by 5:30 a.m. every day to start their first practice of the day. They leave morning practice at 8 a.m. and return to the pool at 5:30 p.m. for their second practice. In the off-season, they get together with other teammates to work out at the ARC and stay in shape even though it is not mandatory. The Jo’s eat, breathe and sleep water polo.
Matt and Brandon started playing water polo in junior high school amongst many other sports. They continued playing at Gunn High School in Palo Alto, California which is when they came to the realization that they both shared great talent in the pool. Matt was awarded league MVP his junior year of high school, and Brandon his senior year.
Last week Brandon was named “Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Player of the Week” after scoring 12 goals in two games, both of which UCI won. He leads the Anteaters in scored goals with 52 goals in 17 games and is ranked second overall in the MPSF.
“I would like to get to number one to carry on the title as Colin Mello and Tim Hutton have,” Brandon said. “It would be really cool to keep the tradition going.”
Matt is also excelling this season with 107 saves in 15 games and is ranked ninth overall in the MPSF. He would love to make the all-conference team during his college career and shoot for the 2012 Olympics in London, as would Brandon.
Because professional water polo is not popular in the United States, many players move out of the country to play pro after college. Brandon plans to play in Europe after graduation, but Matt is most likely to retire his water polo career after college.
“It is really hard for American goalies to play professionally in Europe, because only a small percentage is allowed to play,” Matt said.
Matt thinks about going to law school after his time at UCI while Brandon “doesn’t want to leave the sport” and wants to coach water polo when he stops playing competitively. However, with two more years to go, Mo-Jo and Bo-Jo have plenty of time and great resources to continue fulfilling their college goals and progress toward their mission of making the Olympic team.
“We have great coaching here,” Matt said. Brandon agrees, “Coach Newland is a legend in UCI water polo.”
It is evident the boys have a great deal of respect for all three coaches, including Head Coach Marc Hunt and Assistant Coach Dan Klatt, both UCI alumni.
Aside from sharing their love for water polo, the boys have shared a room their whole life and still do today. They are very close with the team, which is more like a family to them, whom they hang out with on the weekends and in their free time.
Aside from the fact that Matt is goalie and Brandon’s a driver, the two may as well be attached at the hip considering they are literally together from sun-up to sun-down. However, individually, the Jo’s are two Anteaters to watch, because with their tenacity and hard work ethic, this is just the beginning for them.