JOHN HENRY JOHNSON

JOHN HENRY JOHNSON

Class of 1987
Fullback >>> 6-2, 210
(St. Mary's, Arizona State)
1954-1956 San Francisco 49ers, 1957-1959 Detroit Lions, 1960-1965 Pittsburgh Steelers, 1966 Houston Oilers

John Henry Johnson ... Steelers' No. 2 draft pick, 1953 ... Joined 49ers in 1954 after year in Canada. . .Completed "Million Dollar Backfield" with McElhenny, Perry, Tittle in San Francisco ... Powerful runner, superior blocker ... Had best years in Pittsburgh, surpassing 1,000 yards rushing in 1962, 1964 ... Career stats: 6,803 yards, 48 touchdowns rushing; 186 receptions for 1,478 yards, 7 TDs ... Born November 24, 1929, in Waterproof, Louisiana ... Died June 3, 2011, at age of 81.

John Henry Johnson, a 6-2, 210-pound workhorse running back, spent 12 years in the National Football League with the San Francisco 49ers, Detroit Lions and Pittsburgh Steelers and a 13th season in the American Football League with the Houston Oilers.

When he retired after the 1966 season, his 6,803 career rushing yards ranked him behind only Jim Brown, Jim Taylor, and Joe Perry as the top ground gainers of all time. Johnson also was an excellent pass receiver with 186 receptions for 1,478 yards. He scored 330 points on 55 touchdowns in his career.

A standout collegian at St. Mary's until that school discontinued football and then at Arizona State, John Henry was a 1953 second-round draft pick of the Steelers. He first opted to play in Canada but after one season at Calgary, he returned to the United States to start his NFL career with the 49ers. He was an immediate sensation, finishing second in the league in rushing with 681 yards and a 5.3-yard average.

For the next two years, he was an integral part of the "Million Dollar Backfield” that included future Hall of Famers Hugh McElhenny, Y. A. Tittle, and Perry. Johnson was traded to Detroit in 1957 and then to Pittsburgh in 1960.

It was with the Steelers that John Henry enjoyed his finest seasons. In both 1962 and 1964, he broke the 1,000-yard rushing barrier, the first Steeler to achieve that lofty level. It was with the Lions, however, that he participated in his only NFL title game, the 1957 contest that saw Detroit overwhelm the Cleveland Browns, 59-14. Johnson was a key figure in the Lions’ title drive that year and wound up as the club's leading rusher with 621 yards. Johnson was selected to play in the 1955, 1963, 1964, and 1965 Pro Bowl Games.

Year
Team
G
No.
Yds.
Avg.
TD
No.
Yds.
Avg.
TD
1954 San Francisco
12
129
681
5.3
9
28
183
6.5
0
1955 San Francisco
7
19
69
3.6
1
2
6
3.0
0
1956 San Francisco
12
80
301
3.8
2
8
90
11.3
0
1957 Detroit
12
129
621
4.8
5
20
141
7.1
0
1958 Detroit
9
56
254
4.5
0
7
60
8.6
0
1959 Detroit
10
82
270
3.3
2
7
34
4.9
1
1960 Pittsburgh
12
118
621
5.3
2
12
112
9.3
1
1961 Pittsburgh
14
213
787
3.7
6
24
262
10.9
1
1962 Pittsburgh
14
251
1141
4.5
7
32
226
7.1
2
1963 Pittsburgh
12
186
773
4.2
4
21
145
6.9
1
1964 Pittsburgh
14
235
1048
4.5
7
17
69
4.1
1
1965 Pittsburgh
1
3
11
3.7
0
0
0
0.0
0
1966 Houston
14
70
226
3.2
3
8
150
18.8
0
Career Total
143
1571
6803
4.3
48
186
1478
7.9
7
Additional Career Statistics: Passing: 5-2-40, 2 TDs, 1 Int; Punt Returns: 1-6; Kickoff Returns: 4-59; Interceptions: 1-29

Championship Games

1957 NFL – Detroit Lions 59, Cleveland Browns 14
Johnson started at fullback for the Lions. He carried the ball eight times for 40 yards and had one reception for 16 yards.

All-NFL Second Team: 1954 (UPI, NEA, NY), 1962 (AP, UPI, NEA)

All Western Conference: 1954 (PB)

(4) – 1955, 1963, 1964, 1965

Steelers’ records held by Johnson
Records through the 1965 season, Johnson’s last season with Pittsburgh


• [1st] Most Rushing Attempts, Season – 251 (1962)
• [1st] Most Rushing Yards Gained, Season – 1,141 (1962)
• [1st] Most Rushing Yards Gained, Game – 200 (vs. Cleveland, Oct. 10, 1964)

Team Statistical Championships

Rushing Titles:
1957Det, 1961Pit, 1962Pit, 1963Pit, 1964Pit
Yards From Scrimmage Titles:
1961Pit, 1962Pit, 1964Pit

Det Detroit Lions Pit Pittsburgh Steelers

Year Team W L T Division Finish
1954 San Francisco 49ers 7 4 1 (3rd)
1955 San Francisco 49ers 4 8 0 (5th)
1956 San Francisco 49ers 5 6 1 (3rd)
1957 Detroit Lions 8 4 0 (1st)
1958 Detroit Lions 4 7 1 (5th)
1959 Detroit Lions 3 8 1 (5th)
1960 Pittsburgh Steelers 5 6 1 (5th)
1961 Pittsburgh Steelers 6 8 0 (5th)
1962 Pittsburgh Steelers 9 5 0 (2nd)
1963 Pittsburgh Steelers 7 4 3 (4th)
1964 Pittsburgh Steelers 5 9 0 (6th)
1965 Pittsburgh Steelers 2 12 0 (7th)
1966 Houston Oilers 3 11 0 (4th)

Full Name: John Henry Johnson

Birthdate: November 24, 1929

Birthplace: Waterproof, Louisiana

High School: Pittsburg (CA)

Elected to Pro Football Hall of Fame: January 24, 1987

Enshrined into Pro Football Hall of Fame: August 8, 1987

Other Members of Class of 1987: Larry Csonka, Len Dawson, Joe Greene, Jim Langer, Don Maynard, Gene Upshaw

Pro Career: 13 seasons, 143 games

Drafted: 2nd round (18th overall) in 1953 by Pittsburgh Steelers

Played in the Canadian Football League in 1953. Negotiating rights were traded to San Francisco 49ers before the 1954 season.

Uniform Number: #35 with San Francisco 49ers, Detroit Lions, Pittsburgh Steelers and Houston Oilers

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