Why Estelle’s a Hawk to Watch:
What does it take to become a pro athlete? Agility, strength, high levels of grit, and a growth mindset, for sure. But in addition to all the physical discipline and long hours of exertion required for a career in athletics, having solid communication skills is essential for success both on and off the field, something Estelle Johnson knows well.
Before playing soccer professionally in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) and in the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France as part of the Cameroonian National Team, Estelle pursued her love of the game on the Kansas soccer team from 2006 to 2009, appearing in all 85 games during her career at KU. At the same time she was building experience as a player with the Jayhawks, Estelle applied her same work ethic to gain complementary skills as a communication studies major in the College and, later, in the MBA program at Avila University in Kansas City.
Whether she’s pursuing personal goals in her education, serving as a mentor to female athletes, or scoring goals on the field, we can’t wait to see what she does next.
Tell us in a sentence or two what you do for a living:
I’m a professional soccer player. I currently play in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) here in the U.S. as well as for the Cameroonian National Team.
How did you end up doing what you do? Was there a certain moment when things came together? Or was it a longer journey?
I was drafted in 2010 straight from KU. I still remember the moment I got the news. I was in an interview for an internship in Allen Fieldhouse. I left the interview and had over 70 congratulatory text messages and a handful of calls from friends and family. They knew before I did.
What do you feel is your biggest achievement so far?
Not much can top playing in the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France. I was able to represent my birth nation, Cameroon.
What’s your lowest career moment and how did you pick yourself up and move on?
I’d say my first professional training camp was a low point. It was just an eye opener to how much I still needed to learn to be good enough to play in the American League. I had to just learn to relax a bit. Once I let go of the stress of possibly getting cut and essentially “failing,” I was able to play my game. That was a turning point for me, for sure.
Where do you hope to be in 10 years?
I hope to be mentoring other females, not just athletes, and helping them take on life with confidence, grit, determination, strength, and grace.
What do you know now that you wish you could tell your 18-year-old self?
I would tell 18-year-old Estelle to forget about societal expectations on how you should live your life. Instead, simply be good to others and live your life in a way that makes you happy. Simple.
What’s your best career pro-tip?
Put your head down and go to work – day in and day out.
How did your KU degree prepare you for your current job?
The ability to communicate effectively is something that is taken so lightly. Everybody just assumes that others know how to do it but I’ve found the opposite to be true. My studies at KU have helped me be one of the best communicators on and off of the pitch. When you’re surrounded by people from all over the world, this is an extremely important aspect of the job.
What do you do after you’ve clocked out?
Eat, sleep, and spend time with my family and loved ones. I like to travel and experience new cultures but I’m pretty simple on a day to day basis.
What is a fun fact about you that surprises people?
I come from a huge family. I am one of 10. I have 4 sisters and 5 brothers.
Be like Estelle. Find your passion and put in the work. For more information, visit the Department of Communication Studies and Women’s Soccer at the University of Kansas. Also, explore the National Women’s Soccer League, FIFA Women’s World Cup, the Cameroonian National Team, and Avalia University.
Hawks to Watch are disrupters. They’re poised for greatness, inspiring their colleagues and excelling in their professions. Basically, they’re killing it. Having recently graduated, they are just starting to leave their mark and we can’t wait to see how their story unfolds. These Jayhawks span all industries including business, non-profits, tech, healthcare, media, law and the arts.