The 300: #6 Gary Johnson

It’s back to the early days of televised NFL in the UK for today’s selection.


San Diego Chargers (1975-1984)

San Francisco 49ers (1984-1985)



Defensive Tackle



Back when they started screening the NFL in the UK, in the dark days of only four television channels and only one live game a year, the focus was almost exclusively on offensive players. With the obvious exceptions of the likes of Lawrence Taylor and The Fridge, defensive players were largely unknown – indeed, William Perry was better known for his nickname and for the plays he made on offense than he was for anything he did in Buddy Ryan‘s infamous 46 defense.

During the course of The 300 we’ll be introducing you to one or two others of that era, the first of whom is Gary ‘Big Hands’ Johnson. Johnson was a marauding defensive tackle like we see today, one of the first of his type. His sack count was almost certainly higher than the 16 the official statistics credit him with (the NFL only began recording individual statistics in 1982), and the Chargers credit him with 17.5 in 1980 alone.

Johnson made his name in San Diego, but it was when he moved up the coast to San Francisco that he really caught the public attention. He was regarded by many as unlucky not to win the MVP award in Superbowl XIX, a game in which he recorded only one sack but so hounded legendary Cowboys quarterback Dan Marino that he completed just 29 of 50 pass attempts and threw two interceptions.

Johnson retired in 1985, having laid the groundwork for all of those who followed him as huge, athletic nightmares for quarterbacks everywhere. He died in August 2010 at the age of 57, a fortnight after suffering a stroke.

Richard O’Hagan



Richard O'Hagan
Writer on such diverse topics as sport, music, theatre, law and politics. Author of 'Eddie the Sheep'. Supporter of underachieving teams, including the Chicago Bears from before that brief, heady, period in the mid-1980s when they were actually any good. All I want for Christmas is a Jim McMahon away shirt.
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    Richard O'Hagan
    Richard O’Hagan

    It’s back to the early days of televised NFL in the UK for today’s selection. NFL CAREER San Diego Chargers (1975-1984) San Francisco 49ers (1984-1985
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