Overzealous fans caused concern for Johnson

Ian Johnson and his wife Chrissy gained fame following Johnson's nationally televised marriage proposal following the 2007 Fiesta Bowl. The couple enjoyed a lot of attention for their fairy tale, but a national article in December released too much information to overzealous fans and caused concern for Chrissy's safety.

Ian Johnson has enjoyed some of the benefits of football fame. This one isn't so enjoyable.

First, however, a refresher on what brought Johnson into the national spotlight and how that contributed to a concerning family situation.

Johnson became a football star at Boise State and came to prominence across the nation on Jan. 1, 2007. The Broncos beat Adrian Peterson's Oklahoma Sooners 43-42 in overtime in the Fiesta Bowl, but it was more than just Johnson's winning touchdown on a Statue of Liberty play in that nationally televised game and the Broncos' 13-0 record that season that put him in the public eye.

Ian Johnson proposes to Chrissy Popadics at the 2007 Fiesta Bowl.
Ted S. Warren/AP

When Boise State won that game, Johnson made sure he got a victory out of life when he dropped to one knee following a postgame interview with Fox Sports and proposed to his cheerleader girlfriend, Chrissy Popadics. It was one of the best feel-good stories of sports and life meeting each other in the past decade … until it turned downright weird and a little nerve-wracking a couple months ago.

A December 2009 Sports Illustrated article updating their life two years after that celebrated Boise victory and triumph of love gave out a little too much information. The article explained that Chrissy was working at Victoria's Secret … at the Mall of America … in the mornings. Bring on the overzealous fans/stalkers.

"People found the need to reach out to her in one way or another. I don't know what the reasons were, but they were calling the store looking for her, not identifying themselves," Johnson explained this week. "They were coming in while she was on shift with packages for her, which you don't really know what it is. It's kind of something you don't want to be involved in because it could be a nice t-shirt or something, a quilt knitted for you – or it could be something you don't want it to be.

"At that point, we just said, hey, it's not worth it. She was just working to have fun, just to have something to do while I'm away at work and it's just not worth it."

As Johnson becomes more established in his career – he spent the 2009 season on the Vikings practice squad and is hoping to make the regular roster after Chester Taylor signed with the Chicago Bears last month – the need for Chrissy to work isn't as great. But her job at Victoria's Secret was something she enjoyed, especially since it gave her something to do when Johnson was busy lifting weights, attending meetings and trying to further his football career.

But, after numerous concerning incidents following that Sports Illustrated article, safety became the primary concern.

"She was doing it for fun. It's not fun when someone is kind of stalking you," Johnson said.

"Anytime a person came with a package they said they would not leave it. They would always take it back with them, which made it even weirder, like I've got a package for Chrissy but I won't leave it for her. I want to make sure she opens it – a little weird. A lot of it was people will call and be like, ‘Is Chrissy there? Hello, Chrissy?' And they would just call back frequently trying to get Chrissy."

Amazingly and sadly, it wasn't just one person who had the idea that he needed to reach out to a married woman he knew only from television and a written story.

"I think it was up to three different people," Johnson said. "One person kept doing it and they ended up finding him and having him stop. He was in Maryland. He said he was just a big fan. I'm sure a lot of people are just fans. I definitely didn't feel comfortable with it. This is my wife, this is my family. You've got to take the necessary precautions with your family."

Safety is the primary concern for Johnson, but with the feeling that Chrissy is no longer in danger, Johnson can at least try to find a little humor in the situation.

"We just quit and it was kind of unfortunate because she got a great discount," he said. "Now back to paying full price."

Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.

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