Clinton, Iowa – population 26,064. In smaller towns like this across America, sports provide a strong sense of community, and young men develop lifelong friendships.
From this particular town, located in eastern Iowa, along the Mississippi River, came two of the most outstanding athletes on the planet today. One’s high-wire act mesmerizes fans of the world’s most famous basketball team. The other is coming off an All-Pro NFL season in which he led the league in TDs and yards from scrimmage.
The first is Harlem Globetrotters rookie dunking sensation Beast Douglas. The second is stalwart running back David Johnson of the Arizona Cardinals.
Both moved to Clinton before high school and developed a bond while playing together on the River Kings basketball team.
“David was a great teammate on the court, just like he was on the football field… a guy that was always lifting up the team,” said Beast, who presented Johnson with his own No. 31 personalized Harlem Globetrotter jersey in the team’s locker-room. “He is a big part of the reason I am with the Globetrotters today. Watching the example he set, both in athletics and in the classroom, motivated me to best the best person and athlete I could be.”
The two talk a couple of times a week, and Johnson recently got a chance to see Beast in action as a Globetrotter for the first time when he attended a game in Phoenix, celebrating his wedding anniversary with his wife Meghan and their 3-month-old son.
“I’m always asking him what it’s like to be a Harlem Globetrotter, because I’ve never seen the Globetrotters live until today,” said Johnson, who posted 15 straight games in 2016 with at least 100 yards from scrimmage, matching the Lions' Barry Sanders (1997) for the longest single-season streak in NFL history. “It means a lot to see one of my best friends performing in person, and I’m very appreciative for the opportunity to bring my family here and watch this historic team.”
An all-conference basketball player for Clinton, Beast went on to play at Kirkwood Community College and then the University of Mary, a Division II school in Bismarck, North Dakota. He played with a rim-wrecking style for the Marauders that netted him an invitation to the 2016 College Slam Dunk Championships in Houston during Final Four Weekend, where he bested seven other top athletes to take the crown. Later that year, the Globetrotters selected the 6-3 jumping bean with the 46-inch vertical in the team’s 10th annual player draft.
“He was always flying around the gym and dunking in high school, and he always played with an entertaining flair,” said Johnson. “I thought it was cool when he told me he was going to be a Globetrotter, because it definitely fits his personality.”
By the same token, Beast knew his good friend was destined for greatness while watching Johnson’s exploits on the gridiron for Clinton, where he accounted for a school-record 42 TDs as a senior and is the school’s all-time leader in career receptions, career receiving yards, and career and single-season total offense.
“It was too easy for him in high school. He was a man among boys,” said Beast, who has eight younger siblings. “Once I saw him demolishing one of the best teams in the state and breaking six, seven tackles on this way to the end zone, I thought, ‘This guy is unreal.’”
Both men feel blessed to be where they are today, and being a Globetrotter is even more fun than Beast expected.
“Once I knew I was going to be a Globetrotter, I pictured great things, but it’s been so much better than I could have imagined. The best parts about it are giving families lifetime memories and having great teammates to mentor me.”
Find your tickets to catch Beast and his supremely talented teammates when the Harlem Globetrotters 2017 World Tour hits a city near you.