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Stadium and Main: Ron Johnson - Where is he now?

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Ron Johnson - Where is he now?

Not from MuskegonWith many Michigan recruitniks hoping to land a commitment from Muskegon Defensive Back Ronald Johnson, it seems appropriate to take a minute to discuss the career of "the original Ron Johnson," who happened to be one of the best Michigan Running Backs ever. Coincidentally, "the original RoJo" was a speaker at the Detroit Free Press Dream Team ceremony this week, which honored "the new RoJo," among others.

Ronald Adolphus Johnson was born October 17, 1947 in Detroit. After earning High School All-America honors at Detroit’s Northwestern High School, he attended the University of Michigan. Johnson graduated from Michigan’s Ross School of Business with a concentration in Finance, and received a scholar-athlete award in 1969 from the National Football Foundation (NFF). In 1980, he earned his MBA from Fairleigh Dickinson University. So, he’s smart.

Here’s a short post-Michigan story, from the NFF site:
"After becoming Michigan’s top student-athlete (1966-68) and earning All-America honors his senior year as a halfback, Johnson played for seven years (1969-75) in the NFL as a first-round pick of the Cleveland Browns and an MVP running back for the NY Giants. While still a player, he embarked on a career as a real estate executive and entrepreneur. In 1983, Johnson founded the Rackson Corporation, which currently operates 24 KFC franchises in New Jersey, Tennessee, and Michigan."
Johnson is currently the Chairman of the NFF.

"Mr. Johnson takes an active role in the community, and his past board service includes the Hackensack Medical Center, Big Brothers, the Boy Scouts, University of Michigan Athletics and Business Schools, and Harlem Junior Tennis. He is a founding member of Minority Athletes Networking (MAN), an urban mentoring group, and he currently serves as a board member of the Calvary Episcopal Church. He also participates as a member of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity and of the NAACP. A Detroit native, Johnson lives in Summit, N.J. with his wife Karen. They have two grown children."
Johnson is often forgotten (or unkown) amongst younger Wolverine fans, but his contributions prior to Bo Schembechler’s arrival in Ann Arbor earned him a respectable #36 ranking on Jake’s "100 Greatest Michigan Football Players" list, and a place in the College Football Hall of Fame. As Captain of the 1968 team, Johnson helped turn a 4-6, 5th-place Big Ten team into an 8-2, 2nd-place Big Ten team.

In terms of records at Michigan, Johnson rushed for 347 yards against Wisconsin in 1968, and scored 5 TDs (30 points) in that game – all Michigan single game records. It should be noted that Johnson also had the third-most rushing yards gained in a game: 289 against Navy in 1967. He still holds the single season record for rushing TDs, with 19 in 1968 (which is also good enough for 3rd all-time in total TDs in a season). His 42 rushing attempts vs. Northwestern in 1967 put him tied for 2nd place in rushing attempts in a game, a record that was just broken by Chris Perry in 2003 (51 at MSU).

More impressive stuff: Ron Johnson averaged 139.1 yards per game in the 1968 season. He is 8th all-time with 90.3 yards rushing per game for his career, which included 10 games over 100 yards and 3 games over 200. Only Mike Hart has more games with 200 or more yards rushing (4). Johnson had 26 or 27 career rushing TDs (depending on the source), but never had a receiving TD. He finished with 2,440 career rushing yards – pretty good, considering he only saw significant action in 2 seasons (1967 and 1968). While his total numbers and per carry average (5.0) are not gaudy, they set the bar for all future Michigan Running Backs. As his Michigan profile states, "[Johnson] [b]roke virtually all school rushing records - setting eight in [the] Big Ten."


Anonymous Andrew said...

having become interested in Michigan football in 1993 (my senior year of high school in Atlanta), I am unfamiliar with a lot of Michigan's history and its players. thanks for sharing this piece on Johnson.

ps. technically, Johnson graduated from the University of Michigan Business School. It only became the Ross School of Business 2 years ago.

8:34 AM  
Blogger Johnny said...

I always enjoy these pieces. Great job, Nick.

3:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was at the Wisconsin game when Johnson ran for 347 yards. It was the second greatest running backe performance I ever saw in Michigan Stadium. (The greatest was Heisman winner George Rogers of South Carolina, and the third best was Amp Lee of Florida State.)
But the thing about Ron Johnson's big game was that he just did it by himself, it seemed (like Rogers) and on a day whwere it rained, sleeted, snowed, and everything in between. A horrible day.
After Tom Harmon, who was way before my time, I think Ron Johnson was Michigan's second greatest running back. Maybe somebody would have to speak up for Willie Heston. Ron Johnson was the best Michigan halfback/tailback that I ever saw, and I have seen them all since Johnson.

12:31 PM  
Blogger Nick said...

You were at that game? That's awesome. Thanks for adding some more perspective. Go Blue!

5:12 PM  
Blogger Glenn Gutin said...

I was a manager who worked for Ron Johnson years ago at his KFC restaurants in NJ. He was a great guy to work for, always a big smile, smart motivational leadership, yet willing to set the example of hard work serving customers, washing pots & pans, etc. instead of just sitting back in the office. Along with his college & pro football, his brother was also a pro baseball player.

12:25 AM  
Blogger Uzumaki Naruto said...

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11:09 PM  
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3:17 AM  

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