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Gold Jacket Spotlight: The Vision of Johnny Robinson

Gold Jacket Spotlight: The Vision of Johnny Robinson

04/04/2021
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On Tuesdays in the fall during the 1960s, members of the Kansas City Chiefs gathered to watch film from the previous Sunday’s game. In many of the clips, safety Johnny Robinson was nowhere to be seen.

“The film would look as if we played with 10 players,” Hall of Fame linebacker Willie Lanier told ESPN for an article in 2019. “(Robinson) would play so deep he wouldn't show up in the film. So he had to have the ability to make interceptions, turn the ball over, give you an opportunity to take away a scoring chance for the opponent, give it back to your offense. That's what he did as well as probably anybody who has ever played the game.”

Johnny’s 12-year career, punctuated with his long-awaited enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2019, is featured this week in the Gold Jacket Spotlight.

Nearly 50 years since he last appeared in an NFL game – the famous Christmas Day double-overtime playoff loss against the Miami Dolphins – Johnny still ranks in a tie for 13th place on the NFL’s all-time list with 57 interceptions. He was elected to the AFL Hall of Fame All-1960s Team, selected to six AFL All-Star Games (plus a Pro Bowl after the merger) and was named first-team All-Pro six times.

Hall of Fame coach Hank Stram saw in Johnny one of the game’s first safeties capable of playing “center field” well off the line of scrimmage. As a former halfback and flanker, Johnny called on his knowledge of offensive schemes to anticipate pass routes, then made pre-snap adjustments and produced big play after big play that led to Chiefs wins. The team’s record in games in which he intercepted a pass: an amazing 35-3-1.

“It was never garbage interceptions for Johnny,” former teammate and fellow Hall of Famer Emmitt Thomas told ESPN. “He would get a great jump on the ball and go get it.”

Johnny attributed his football success to great vision.

“I could see everything," he told The (Baton Rouge) Advocate. “I could see the whole field, and maybe other safeties couldn't see that. I had played offense. I knew all the offensive formations and what they were trying to do.”

Johnny also saw things off the field that others either didn’t notice or chose to ignore.

In 1980, he founded Johnny Robinson’s Boys Home in Monroe, La., to help troubled juveniles redirect their lives. It started when Johnny learned about a 10-year-old boy who had been abused sexually in the nearby youth facility. He petitioned the court for custody.

In the subsequent 40-plus years, hundreds of troubled boys have been provided a second chance in life under the guidance of a staff that has grown from Johnny and a few others to dozens of staffers. Johnny lived in the home into the mid-1990s and has remained a daily presence year-round since its inception.

In 2020, Johnny received a Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation Angel Award.

“The pinnacle of his career was the Pro Football Hall of Fame,” said Bob Thompson, Johnny’s stepson and assistant administrator at the Boys Home. “The pinnacle of his life was this Boys Home.”

This week, both are celebrated in the Gold Jacket Spotlight.

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