Jimmy Johnson San Francisco 49ers
"I don’t look at someone and think that he can’t beat me. If you play long enough, you’re going to get beat. The question and the key to your effectiveness is how often.”
Jimmy Johnson, a 6-2, 187-pound two-way star from UCLA, was the first of three first-round draft choices of the San Francisco 49ers in 1961. The brother of former world decathlon champion Rafer Johnson, Jimmy played wingback on offense and as a defensive back at UCLA. He also was an outstanding track star, a 13.9-second high hurdler and a 25-foot broad jumper.
The 49ers tried Johnson as a defensive back as a rookie, moved him to the offensive unit in his second season and then back to the defensive unit to stay in his third season in 1963. Johnson, who was born March 31, 1938, in Dallas, Texas, intercepted five passes in his rookie season but also did well with 34 receptions for 627 yards and four touchdowns as an offensive receiver in 1962.
He played a year at safety in 1963 and then moved to the left cornerback spot for the remainder of his 16-season career, which was concluded after the 1976 season. He played in 213 games, more than any other 49er at the time of his retirement.
Recognized as one of the best man-to-man defenders in history, Johnson's reputation was so great that opposition quarterbacks threw only rarely into his defensive territory. Still, Johnson intercepted 47 passes and returned them 615 yards.
He had his big moments as a receiver as well, an 80-yard touchdown reception against the Chicago Bears and a 181-yard day vs. Detroit, both in 1962. Johnson was named All-Pro four straight years from 1969 through 1972. He played in three Pro Bowls and missed two others because of injuries.
The former college honor roll student won the Pro Football Writers' George Halas Award for courageous play in 1971 and twice was the winner of the coveted Len Eshmont award given by the 49ers for inspirational play.