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Monday, June 06, 2011

John Henry Johnson, Requiescat In Pace.

Mr. Johnson was a bright light on some Steeler teams who weren't quite championship material.

John Henry Johnson Dies at 81; Inspired Fear on the Field - NY Times


John Henry Johnson, a brawny but agile runner and a powerful blocker who starred for the San Francisco 49ers, the Detroit Lions and the Pittsburgh Steelers in a Hall of Fame career spanning 13 professional football seasons, died Friday in Tracy, Calif. He was 81.



John Henry Johnson, left, with quarterback Bobby Layne, a fellow Hall of Famer, in 1962. Layne called him “my bodyguard.”


The 49ers announced Johnson’s death but did not report the cause. He was found to have Alzheimer’s disease in 1989, The Plain Dealer of Cleveland reported in 1999, when his wife, Leona, enrolled him in a research program for the disease while they were living in Cleveland.

Playing halfback and fullback, Johnson, 6 feet 2 inches and 210 pounds or so, looked to intimidate opposing linemen by charging directly at them, and when he did not run over them, he used his quickness to cut and then head downfield.

“You’ve got to scare your opponent,” Johnson was quoted by Lew Freedman as saying in “Pittsburgh Steelers: The Complete Illustrated History.”

“It sort of upsets their concentration. I find I can run away from a lot of guys after I get them afraid of a collision with me.”

In his first three seasons in the National Football League, Johnson teamed with quarterback Y. A. Tittle, fullback Joe Perry and halfback Hugh McElhenny, all four of them future Hall of Famers, in the 49ers’ Million Dollar Backfield of the mid-1950s. They played long before six- and seven-figure salaries, earning the nickname for their offensive prowess.

After three seasons with San Francisco, Johnson was traded to the Lions in 1957 and led them in rushing yardage when they won the N.F.L. championship that season.

But Johnson’s best seasons came while playing for the Steelers from 1960 to 1965. He became the first Steeler to gain 1,000 yards rushing in a season, exceeding that milestone twice.

When he retired after the 1966 season, playing his final year with the Houston Oilers of the American Football League, Johnson was pro football’s No. 4 career rusher, behind Jim Brown, Jim Taylor and his former 49er teammate Perry, who died in April at 84. A four-time Pro Bowl player, Johnson was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1987.

Johnson was born on Nov. 24, 1929, in Waterproof, La., but grew up in the Bay Area. After playing at St. Mary’s College in California and at Arizona State, he was the Steelers’ second-round draft selection in 1953. He played one season for the Calgary Stampeders of the Canadian Football League, then joined the 49ers.

In his rookie year, Johnson was the runner-up for the N.F.L. rushing title, behind Perry, whom he often sprang with his blocks. He was also formidable in protecting quarterbacks.

“John Henry is my bodyguard,” the star passer Bobby Layne, who played with Johnson on the Lions and the Steelers, once remarked, as related by NFL.com. “Half the good runners will get a passer killed if you keep them around long enough. But a quarterback hits the jackpot when he gets a combination runner-blocker like Johnson.”

Johnson ran for 6,803 career yards, averaging 4.3 yards a carry. He scored 48 rushing touchdowns and 7 as a receiver.

His survivors include five children, The San Francisco Chronicle said. Johnson’s bruising play as a runner and a blocker impressed his teammates, but it brought mixed feelings for at least one of his offensive linemen when the 49ers would approach an opponent’s goal line.

“I just hoped there would be a hole there, because if there wasn’t, John was running up my back,” the star offensive tackle Bob St. Clair told The Contra Costa Times in 2006. “I could feel those cleats going up to my spine, and into the end zone he’d go.”

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First of all, the word is SEX, not GENDER. If you are ever tempted to use the word GENDER, don't. The word is SEX! SEX! SEX! SEX! For example: "My sex is male." is correct. "My gender is male." means nothing. Look it up. What kind of sick neo-Puritan nonsense is this? Idiot left-fascists, get your blood-soaked paws off the English language. Hence I am choosing "male" under protest.

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