Johnson comes to the Bluff City already familiar with the Tigers program, as he spent the previous four seasons (2012-15) at American Athletic Conference rival Tulane in New Orleans, La. While with the Green Wave, Johnson coached the running backs and tight ends.
Under Johnson’s tutelage at Tulane, Sherman Badie (running back) and Charles Jones (tight end) earned 2014 Freshman All-America honors. Badie led the Green Wave in rushing yards (688) and rushing attempts (121) and had three of the longest rushing plays from scrimmage in Tulane history. Jones led the Green Wave tight ends with 21 catches for 192 yards and tied for the team lead with three touchdown receptions.
The previous season (2013), Johnson coached Orleans Darkwa to an 863-yard, 12-touchdown campaign. Darkwa’s 12 touchdowns are the third-most for a season in Tulane history. The Green Wave posted a 7-5 record and earned a R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl berth. Despite a setback in the postseason appearance, Darkwa was named the bowl’s MVP with 83 yards rushing and three scores.
In between his collegiate coaching stints, Johnson served as head coach/offensive coordinator and receivers coach at St. Augustine High School in New Orleans, La., for three seasons. In his tenure from 2009-11, he directed the Purple Knights to a co-district title in 2010 and a district championship in 2011. He was named the 2011 District 10-4A Coach of the Year.
Among the players Johnson coached at St. Augustine was Tyrann Mathieu, who starred at LSU from 2010-11 and was a 2011 Heisman Trophy finalist. In 2011, Mathieu also was named the Chuck Bednarik Award winner (nation’s best defensive player), Southeastern Conference (SEC) Defensive Player of the Year, consensus All-American and All-SEC first team. In the 2013 NFL Draft, Mathieu was selected by the Arizona Cardinals, and he earned NFL All-Pro honors in 2015.
Johnson’s first college coaching post was from 2005-08 at Millsaps College in Jackson, Miss., where he served as the wide receivers/tight ends/special teams (returns) coach and recruiting coordinator. Johnson helped the Majors win the 2006 Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference (SCAC) title and tie for the 2008 SCAC crown. In his three seasons, Millsaps compiled a 26-7 overall record and a 19-1 SCAC mark, including two undefeated conference campaigns in 2006 (6-0) and 2008 (7-0). The 2008 Majors team was ranked as high as No. 3 in the nation.
At Millsaps, Johnson coached 15 receivers that earned All-SCAC honors over a four-year period, including Eric McCarty, who finished his career as the program’s all-time leader in receptions and touchdowns scored. Another Johnson pupil at Millsaps was Chris Jackson, who won the Canadian Football League’s (CFL) Grey Cup as a member of the Calgary Stampede. Johnson also coached Milton Collins, who played for CFL’s Calgary Stampede.
Prior to making his first jump to the collegiate ranks, Johnson coached at the high school level in Louisiana. His third stop was a short stint at St. Augustine High School in 2005, but it was one that laid the groundwork for a future position with the school. Before coaching his first game at St. Augustine High School that season, Johnson jumped to Millsaps.
Johnson began his coaching career at his alma mater, John F. Kennedy High School, in 1997. He also coached at O. Perry Walker from 2000-05, serving as offensive coordinator and wide receivers/tight ends coach.
Johnson helped the Charging Bucs to the 2002 Louisiana state title game and three-consecutive district championships from 2002-04. Johnson also coached seven receivers to 1,000-yard seasons, and under his guidance, 18 players went on to play NCAA Division I football, including 11 from the class of 2002. One of his pupils at O. Perry Walker was receiver Craig Davis, who played for the LSU Tigers and the NFL’s San Diego Chargers.
Johnson played his collegiate football at Nicholls State from 1991-93. A two-time All-Southland Conference (SLC) honorable mention selection in 1992 (receiver) and 1993 (receiver/punt returner), Johnson led the Colonels in receiving both seasons. In his final two campaigns, Johnson’s receiving numbers totaled 50 catches for 990 yards (19.8 ypg) and eight touchdowns.
The New Orleans, La., native graduated from Nicholls State in 1995 with a bachelor’s degree in general education. He spent the 1999 season playing receiver for the New Orleans Thunder in the Regional Football League.
He and his wife, Akeia, have three children: Jermaine, De’Von and Karaaz.