About a dozen years ago, a developing quarterback and ninth-round draft pick named Brad Johnson used to tease his mentor, Warren Moon, about his age. That was during the years that the Vikings' starting quarterback then – Moon – was about 38, 39 and 40 years old.
That was when Moon and Johnson were both members of the Minnesota Vikings from 1994 to 1996, before Moon packed his bags once again and played four more seasons with the Seattle Seahawks and Kansas City Chiefs.
At the time, Moon never dreamed he'd have to opportunity to poke the same kind of fun at Johnson a decade later but … well, Moon thinks too much of Johnson to take too many good-natured shots publicly.
"When I first met him, I didn't think (he'd play this long) because he was just a young guy trying to feel his way around. By the time I left there, I had a good feeling he would have a long career," said Moon, who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame today while Johnson, now 37, is recovering from a training camp scrimmage against the Chiefs.
"I didn't think (Johnson's career) would be as long as it is right now, but we used to always joke. He would always say, ‘I could never play as long as you play.' Well, he's approaching that. He still has good years left in him. Being around me might have rubbed off a little bit. His work ethic and the way he takes care of himself has a lot to do with the reasons he is still around."
Interestingly, Johnson's statistics with the Vikings are about at the same stage as Moon's ended up – we're talking strictly about their statistics accumulated while in Minnesota. Johnson has only 32 starts as a Vikings; Moon had 39 in his 2-1/2 seasons as a starter before giving way to Johnson after an injury in the middle of the 1996 season.
Johnson has seven 300-yard games as a Viking; Moon had 10. Johnson has 1,231 passes in purple; Moon 1,454 – with Johnson completing 766 of them for 8,348 yards to Moon's 882 completions for 10,102 yards. And Johnson needs only two more touchdown passes in purple to surpasses Moon's fifth-place standing of 58.
Moon, of course, has had the more decorated NFL statistically. The elder statesman, who played 17 seasons in the NFL after winning five consecutive Grey Cups in the CFL, said maintenance is the key to Johnson's health and future. And if Johnson is to equal Moon's professional longevity, he still has five years to go.
"When I left Seattle, I was 42 years old," Moon said. "You probably wonder why doesn't he just retire. I still felt like I could play physically and I still had that desire to keep playing."
Moon did play well for the Vikings and other teams, passing for nearly 50,000 yards in the NFL alone.
His suggestion to Johnson is to anticipate minor health concerns before they turn into sidelining health issues.
"Brad has great work habits and I think as you get older you have to work just a little bit harder to stay on top of keeping your body healthy, whether that's in the weight room or getting massages, getting the proper treatment for your arm after practice to keep it fresh," Moon said. "Whatever it might be that you have ailing you, you just have to make sure that you stay on top of everything and try and see things and treat things before they even happen. If you know you have a chronic whatever, you need to make sure you take care of that before it becomes a problem. Say you have a bad hamstring. Well, if it's not bothering you now, you have to keep treating it so it doesn't bother you."
Johnson's mind, Moon says, is right where it should be.
"He's well ahead of everybody else as far as his knowledge of the game and where to go with the football and different things that a quarterback needs," Moon said.
But no matter how many statistics Moon racked up during his Hall of Fame career, Johnson will always have one thing over him – a Super Bowl title, won with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Twelve years ago, when Johnson was teasing his old-time mentor, Moon would have never anticipated that either.
MOON ON OTHER TOPICS
On fullback Tony Richardson, who played with Moon in Kansas City and attended his Hall of Fame induction: "He was one of those great leadership, great locker room guys and one of the hardest workers on the team and has really made himself into an All-Pro player over the last three or four years since Dick Vermeil got there. I don't think he was utilized properly before Dick got there, but once Dick got there he really brought out the best in him, as both a great blocking fullback as well as letting him carry the ball every now and then and catch passes out of the backfield."
On Brett Favre's return to the Packers this season: "I don't think he's returning to as much (talent) as he's used to having around him. I just think he still has the competitive nature to play the game. I understand that because I was the same way. … It's going to be tough this year because he just doesn't have the playmakers around him."
On the Vikings' outlook in 2006: "Their biggest challenge is probably going to be picking up a new offense. … Whenever you go through a new learning process, it take a little bit of time for everybody to get on the same page. As far as their talent on paper, that's a pretty good football team, a powerful-looking football team, especially up front in the offensive line. I think they have some very talented receivers with a lot of speed and a lot of size. Their biggest question is, who is going to be their every-down runner. Defensively, I think they made a lot of strides last year and I think they probably improved themselves a little bit more this offseason. That team has a chance to be very, very competitive in their division."
Moon on Johnson's Physical, Mental Game
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