Top 12 Best Johnsons in NFL History

I have a nice collection of Johnson's I've been dying to share. Wanna see?

Of course, I'm referring to football players. What did you think I was talking about? Get your head out of the gutter.

According to the 2010 US Census, “Johnson” (.8% of population) is the second most common surname in the country behind “Smith” (1% of population). However, it has the highest density in The Bahamas. Johnson is Swedish and means, “son of John.” St. John, John the Baptist, and over 1,000 other Christian saints took the name. It's origins in America were the direct result of the influx of European Christians.

This is why nearly everybody has a friend, who has a friend, who has a mother, who has an uncle, who has a mistress, named Johnson. In the sports world, the name obviously needs some more elaboration when referring to an athlete. I'll give you a funny conversation I had with a friend a while ago. Keep in mind, I initiated this just to troll him:

Me: “Hey, did you see Johnson's game the other day? Dude's a monster!”

Him: “Who?”

Me: “Johnson.”

Him: “Please elaborate.”

Me: “Johnson – the guy who played today.”

Him: “Calvin? Stevie? Andre? Who?”

Me: “Yeah, him. The wide receiver.”

This brick wall of an exchanged continued for a couple of minutes until he finally realized I was talking about former Houston Texan wide-out, Andre Johnson. This was in 2012, where Andre had a career game against the Jacksonville Jaguars - 14 catches for 273 yards. And to top that off, he caught a 43-yard touchdown pass in overtime to win the game. You see why I didn't think I needed to elaborate who I was talking to my friend about? That was his fault. In all fairness, I think he was in Catholic mass that day. Those things can run as long as The Godfather trilogy sometimes.

From past greats like Jimmy and Keyshawn, to currents like Calvin and Andre, the remembrance of that conversation inspired me to create a list of the best Johnson's we've ever seen...IN FOOTBALL. Just wanted to make that clear. I saw the opportunity to both make something informative and write Johnson puns all night. You just don't get these opportunities every day.

Before we get started, let me just dig into my secret encrypted folder of Johnson's that I had to name “2015 Tax Forms.” Couldn't let anybody find out about my curiosity.

Okay, got it. Let's start the countdown.

Continue scrolling to keep reading

Click the button below to start this article in quick view

Start Now

13 Lane Johnson

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

While this year has been tough on the Philadelphia Eagles, Lane Johnson has quietly become one of the best right tackles in the NFL. He was rated the no.2 RT by Pro Football Focus following the 2014 season and made his first Pro Bowl. He had a solid rookie campaign as well in 2013. Originally a tight end and defensive end in college, Johnson switched to tackle for his final two seasons at Oklahoma and in a short time, managed to work his way into the top-5 of the 2013 NFL Draft.


11 Charles Johnson

Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

The Carolina Panthers have been overlooked enough this year so we're not going to let the staple of their defensive line slip through our list. Charles Johnson has been one of the reasons why Carolina's defense has led them to three straight NFC South titles. Johnson has recorded 63.5 sacks in his career and has forced 14 fumbles. He's been banged up this year, but if Johnson is able to stay healthy for a playoff run, it'd be a big boost for Carolina.

10 Stevie Johnson

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

After becoming only the fourth player in Kentucky history to account for over 1,000 receiving yards in a season, wide receiver Stevie Johnson was drafted by the Buffalo Bills in the seventh round of the 2008 NFL Draft. Players from such schools are always under the radar.

Stevie had a slow start in Buffalo, but he came to life in 2011 and compiled three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. In 2014, he was traded to the San Francisco 49ers, where he would have a quiet role until traded to San Diego this year. Since half of the Chargers offense are wearing casts right now, Johnson has been able to showcase his talent and is slowly coming back.

9 Derrick Johnson

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Coming from the legendary 2005 Texas Longhorn defense, linebacker Derrick Johnson was drafted 15th overall by the Kansas City Chiefs. To this day, Derrick remains a Chief. His loyalty and impact to his team already makes him one of the most important defensive players in football. Not counting when he was on the IR in 2014, Derrick has only missed seven regular-season games in his 10-year career. He serves as the anchor for leadership in a Kansas City defense that is both talented and close-knit.

This is a Johnson that has never left the Chiefs' bedside.

8 Keyshawn Johnson

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Being the first overall pick in the 1996 NFL Draft by the New York Jets, USC Trojan Keyshawn Johnson opened his pro career with over 800 yards, and hit the magical 1,000-yard mark in his third year.

Known for his personality, Keyshawn's career spoke of consistency to the stat nerds. He had four 1,000-yard seasons, only went below 800 yards once (600 in 2003), and missed only four of 145 career games. He won Super Bowl XXXVII with a fellow Johnson throwing him the ball.

Keyshawn announced retirement in 2007. Due to ending his career on a high note, rumors emerged of Bill Parcells offering him a starting role in the Miami Dolphins the following year. Johnson subsequently declined and has been an analyst on ESPN to this day, inventing the infamous “C'mon Man!” segment of bloopers.

In a suit, he's known for a catchphrase. In pads, he's known for consistency.

7 Brad Johnson

via cbsboston.com

Holding the record for the only player in NFL history to throw AND catch a touchdown in the same play (1997), quarterback Brad Johnson has the merits to make this coveted list, even while being an afterthought to some.

The underrated veteran had a roller-coaster of a career. Despite starting out as a journeyman bouncing between Minnesota, Washington, and even London in 1995, Brad would get cozy playing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, breaking almost every passing record for the franchise. He had the pleasure of leading them to win their first ever championship in Super Bowl XXXVII. Tampa had the number-one defense at the time, but Brad would prove to the critics that he didn't need to be carried by his defense.

After making one last stint in Minnesota and then ending his career in Dallas, Brad Johnson retired after 2008. He holds a career record of 72-53 as a starter, ranks 37th in career passer rating, and is the first quarterback in NFL history to complete 60% of his passes for 13 straight seasons.

He is the type of Johnson that satisfied everybody he was with.

6 Billy “White Shoes” Johnson

via sikids.com

The legendary Houston Oiler served as their primary kick returner, and sometimes wide receiver. Though he didn't rack up numbers like most of the others on this countdown, White Shoes has a different legacy. Being the first player to dance in the end zone, he invented the touchdown celebration, first coining the classic “Funky Chicken.”

Billy inaugurated a beautiful time when the NFL did not stand for “No Fun League.” He was solely responsible for making scoring fun. The touchdown dance became something deeper than just a dance. It was something you choreographed in advance to give even more motivation to hit that end zone. And once you crossed that white line, you had leeway to have your 10-seconds of fun while subliminally sticking it to your opponent. Sadly, we now live in an overly politically correct society where any kind of fun is now “unsportsmanlike.” If they don't call it on the field, expect an angry letter from a mother with nothing else to do. (PS: Keep being you, Cam Newton)

Here's to White Shoes: A Johnson that was always happy to see you (the end zone).

5 Chris Johnson

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The former two-star high school recruit Chris Johnson's career is unparalleled to most. Unsurprisingly also a track star, he would later boast five career 1,000-yard seasons in the NFL, and even one with 2,006 yards – joining only six people to reach that mark at the time. His speed and agility on the field are next to none.

In his 2,000-plus rushing yard season, Chris also broke Marshall Faulk's record of scrimmage yards with 2,509. When the three-time Pro Bowler turns on his switch, there's clearly no "off" button. Though having a quiet last couple of seasons, injuries in the Arizona Cardinals allowed him to re-emerge as the Chris Johnson we loved watching in Tennessee. Now that he's with one of the favorites to get to the Super Bowl, playoff time might enable him to revisit his prime.

4 Andre Johnson

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Hurricane and Houston legend will already have first dibs into the Hall of Fame once eligible. He possesses an ungodly amount of receiving records and ranks among the all-time greats in almost every category. He ranks 11th in career receiving yards; has the most games with nine, ten, and eleven receptions; and is tied with Marvin Harrison and Calvin Johnson with most consecutive 1,500-yard seasons (2).

Unfortunately Andre is now experiencing a disappointing decline. Since joining his longtime rival (Colts) because of a disagreement with his diminished role with the Texans, he went to Indianapolis to turn to Andrew Luck for his fountain of youth. Unfortunately plagued with injuries and just a weird season unfolding for them, his current role with the Colts is nothing different, if not worse, than what it would be had he stayed in H-Town.

In Houstonians' hearts like myself, he will always remain the biggest Johnson in Houston.

3 Calvin Johnson

Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

This was extremely difficult to decide who to rank higher: Calvin or Andre. I phoned a friend and tried to eliminate two answers, but Regis didn't let me since there are only two to begin with.

Both are very similar players, they have had similar roles on their teams and possess similar records. Since Megatron is four years younger and boasts two seasons close to 2,000 receiving yards, I had to give him the upper-hand. He has more left in the tank that we have yet to see. We have no idea how much longer his career will last, while I think we are seeing Andre's last days.

Talent-wise, Calvin is one of those “too good to exist” players that include very few others (Watt, Rodgers, Brady, etc...). Toss the ball anywhere in the same area code as Megatron, and he'll somehow grab it.

Like Andre, Calvin has been stuck with a mediocre team that holds his world champion-potential back. Even though he has a quarterback in Matthew Stafford and some help in Golden Tate, the Lions are unfortunately known for their shortcomings year after year.

This big and talented Johnson will still have us stare in amazement for a couple more years.

2 John Henry Johnson

via pinterest.com

It's only right that we end the countdown with the only two Johnsons in the Hall of Fame. First, we'll kick it old-school and journey very back to the times of drive-ins, Elvis, and way too much hair gel.

John Henry Johnson was drafted in 1953 out of Arizona State University. A star member of the San Francisco 49ers' “Million Dollar Backfield,” he led a Hall of Fame career unrivaled by most. Also playing for the Steelers, he is still fourth in rushing yards behind Franco Harris, Jerome Bettis, and Willie Parker.

Peaking at 251 carries in 1962, JHJ was the definition of a “workhorse running back” that is slowly fading away today. Even with the heavy workload, he still managed to sustain a 12-year career. 

John was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1987. The other members of the Million Dollar Backfield – Joe Perry, Hugh McElhenny, and Y.A. Tittle, would later join him in Canton as the only full-house backfield all inducted to the HOF.

John Henry died on June 3, 2011 and later had his brain examined by Boston University for studies on head-trauma in sports. This paved the way for awareness in long-term effects in contact sports.

JHJ's legacy in both life and death will always be Hall of Fame.

1 Jimmy Johnson

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Closing out the countdown is who possesses one of the greatest coaching tenures off all time. Jimmy Johnson is one of the only three coaches (Pete Carroll, Barry Switzer) to win both a college and professional championship in football.

In 1987, Jimmy led the Hurricanes to their second of five total national titles. In the following season, he would coach his last season at Miami. He rode off into the sunset after defeating Nebraska in the Orange Bowl.

Enter: Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys – a beautiful dysfunction.

Jimmy was invited by Jerry to replace longtime coach Tim Landry. Needless to say, he had some Shaq-sized shoes to fill. But if anybody could do it, he could – and he did. After winning back-to-back Super Bowls in 1992 and 1993, the J-Squared duo mutually decided to split. Why would they split after such a short time? Especially when they were winning? Well, this is what happens when you try to get two type-A personalities to work together. Things will go fine for a short period of time, but both will want the power eventually. This is exactly what happened. Even today, Jimmy Johnson, the man with more rings than a Funyuns factory, is still not allowed in the Cowboys' “Ring of Honor,” their own little hall of fame.

Despite his little tensions with people, Jimmy Johnson is one of the greatest leaders, coaches, and overall football personalities of all time. After winning as much as he did, and being one of the only two on this list with his face in Canton, it would be insulting to rank him any lower.

He is, in fact, the best Johnson of all time...IN FOOTBALL, GUYS.

More in NFL