Johnson is usually associated with being one of the Woody Hayes' prized recruits from New York, and it is true that Johnson graduated from Long Beach (N.Y.) High School.
But he was born March 2, 1954, in Georgia and attended Peach County High School near Atlanta until his family moved to New York before his senior season.
Whether it was Georgia or New York, college coaches would have found him. He played both fullback and linebacker in high school, and while most remember him as a battering ram type of player, Johnson possessed excellent speed in his younger days. In fact, coming out of the high school, the 6-1, 227-pounder was timed in 10.1 seconds in the 100-yard dash.
When he got to Ohio State, he met his destiny. In fact, after his freshman season, Hayes moved starter Bruce Elia to linebacker, where he became a star. Meanwhile, Johnson led tailback Archie Griffin into hundreds of holes in opposing defenses in 1974 and '75 as Griffin became college football's only two-time Heisman Trophy winner. They were part of the "Fab Four" backfield that also included quarterback Cornelius Green and wingback Brian Baschnagel.
Johnson earned a reputation as a punishing blocker, and he was. But that wasn't the only facet of his game. In fact, in 1975 when Griffin was winning his second Heisman, Johnson was leading the nation in scoring, setting an OSU record with 26 touchdowns that has never been equaled.
He was also a 1,000-yard rusher that season, piling up 1,059 yards in the same backfield with Griffin, who ran for 1,450.
The following year, with Jeff Logan taking over the tailback duties from Griffin, Johnson again led the Buckeyes in scoring with 19 touchdowns – that despite the fact he played most of the season on a pair of sprained ankles.
By the time he played his final game in Scarlet and Gray, Johnson had established scoring records for the most points in a game (30), season (156) and career (348). He also set new OSU marks for most touchdowns in a game (five), season (26) and career (58).
Each of those records still stands with the exception of the career scoring mark. Johnson held onto that for 28 years until kicker Mike Nugent broke it in the final game of his career in 2004.
Johnson finished his Ohio State career with 2,308 yards, fourth on the school's all-time list when he played his final game and still the 14th-best total in history.
The Cincinnati Bengals made him their second-round selection in the 1976 NFL draft, and Johnson enjoyed a productive seven seasons in Cincinnati. He had his lone 1,000-yard season in 1981, leading the Bengals to Super Bowl XVI where they lost a 26-21 decision to San Francisco.
As in college, Johnson was particularly effective around the goal line, scoring 70 touchdowns for the Bengals from 1977 to '83.
Johnson finished his NFL career with stints in Miami and San Diego before he retired following the 1984 season. In 110 career games, he rushed for 5,626 yards and 76 TDs while adding another 1,334 yards and six scores on 175 career receptions. He finished among the NFL's top six in rushing touchdowns five times.
In 2000, Johnson was selected for Ohio State's All-Century Team, and in 2007, he was elected into the university's athletic hall of fame.
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