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John Henry Johnson
*John Henry Johnson was born on this date in 1929. He was a Black professional football player.
From Oakland, CA, after high school, he was a standout collegian at St. Mary's until that school discontinued football and then at Arizona State. Johnson was a 1953 second-round draft pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers. He first opted to play in Canada for one season at Calgary; he returned to the United States to start his National Football League career with the 49ers. He finished second in the league in rushing with 681 yards and a 5.3-yard average. He was an integral part of the "Million Dollar Backfield” for the next two years, including future Hall of Famer Hugh McElhenny, Y. A. Tittle, and Joe Perry.
Johnson was traded to Detroit in 1957 and then back to Pittsburgh in 1960. It was with the Steelers that John Henry enjoyed his finest seasons. In 1962 and 1964, he broke the 1,000-yard rushing barrier, the first Steeler to achieve that level. However, it was with the Lions that he participated in his only NFL title game, the 1957 contest, that saw Detroit overwhelm the Cleveland Browns, 59-14. That year, Johnson was a key figure with the Lions 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.
Johnson, a 6-2 210-pound workhorse running back, spent 12 years in the National Football League 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. John Henry Johnson died on June 3, 2011.