Concussions, Flutiemania, a 'Miracle.' Bills QB Rob Johnson relives it all...
Go Long chats with the QB handpicked as the post-Jim Kelly savior in Buffalo long ago and, as we find out, there was far more to the Rob Johnson Era than any of us realized.
Two decades later, it’s a debate that’ll still rage on command in Western New York.
Bring up these two names at your own peril.
It’s as simple as this, really: You were either a Rob Johnson guy or a Doug Flutie guy. There was zero in-between. You either pulled for the quarterback handpicked as the Buffalo Bills’ savior post-Jim Kelly or the middle-aged man from the CFL. You either banged the table for the prototype with the gun for an arm or the 5-foot-9 underdog ziggin’ and zaggin’ all over the field.
And of course, this all-timer of a QB controversy reached its climax in the 1999 AFC Wild Card when Johnson got the start against the Tennessee Titans even though Flutie had been the starter up to Johnson’s Week 17 spot start. Johnson’s name has come up more than a few times with our Buffalonian subscribers on the Friday Happy Hour so I figured we’d give Johnson a call for a conversation here.
That ’99 game is bonkers in its own right. If you’re interested, here’s an oral history I wrote at The Buffalo News six years back.
And as you’ll see here, Johnson’s own life is fascinating. A backup with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Johnson was lights out in his lone start, traded to Buffalo for first- and fourth-round picks and given a five-year, $25 million contract. Thus, the expectations were massive in the wake of Kelly’s Hall of Fame career. Who knows how history’s rewritten if there is no Music City Miracle, if Frank Wycheck doesn’t lateral the ball to Kevin Dyson after Johnson orchestrated what could’ve been a game-winning drive to remember.
That Bills team could’ve won it all.
Instead, Johnson’s 10-year pro career tested him mentally and physically in every possible way. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a more authentic, genuinely nice quarterback than Johnson. And through this hour-long conversation with Go Long, he gets into it all:
The six concussions and countless other injuries he suffered. Yes, he’s a surfer from California. He also happened to be one of the toughest players on the roster.
If it really was owner Ralph Wilson’s call to start him in the playoffs after Johnson threw for 287 yards and two scores in the Week 17 finale vs. Indy.
The fight that nearly broke out in the locker room during halftime of that Titans playoff game.
His Dad’s brutal battle with Alzheimer’s and Johnson’s own concerns about his long-term health.
How he ended up helping the Bills’ current QB, Josh Allen, in a roundabout way via his Dad’s famous Elite 11 program.
And, yes, his rocky relationship with Doug Flutie. I cannot imagine how something like that would’ve played out today.
Thanks, all. Enjoy.
I. The QB Controversy
Do you still think back to those Buffalo Bills years to this day? Do you replay memories?
Johnson: What I think about now more than anything — now that I coached — I think of how I could’ve been better and how I could’ve handled the situation better. Looking back, I was young. I just turned 25. And to be thrown right into that, that was the hard part. To not have that development. The constant back and forth was the difficult part. We both played pretty good for the Bills until they had to get rid of everyone. When you don’t have a team, it’s hard. Those first three years, we were pretty good. Always being super competitive with each other made us better. But it also hurt us because whenever I played, I thought, ‘This might be the last time I play. Don’t ever give up on a play.” So I took a lot of unnecessary hits and that’s what ultimately ended my career.
But I’m the least bitter. It’s something I did for 10 years of my life and I loved it and I was very blessed and fortunate to be able to do it. I wish I would’ve coached before I played so I’d understand a little better what coaches wanted. And I’m a coach’s son. You understand it so much better when you start coaching. There’s a couple things — petty shit, I’d say, where I look back and say, “That’s not who I am.” I never started anything but I wasn’t mature enough at the time to just eat it and not say anything back. I should’ve just shut up and played.
How so? What were those regrets exactly?
Johnson: One thing that got Doug (Flutie) pissed, in the beginning, was that my stats were better than his. But he won more than me. So he’d say I held onto the ball too long — so I wouldn’t get incompletions and my stats would be better. I’m like, OK, take three to five incompletions of throwing it away… that was not the reason. That really bugged me. So, I confronted him on that. And then he said if he was in the playoff game we would’ve won. And I said, “Yeah, if you were on special teams, you could’ve made the tackle.” Just shit like that.
That’s pretty funny, though. I like that.
Johnson: Yeah, I don’t usually start stuff but I’ll come back if I get pushed too much. But it’s stupid and unnecessary. I guess it made an impression on the people in Buffalo.
Was that publicly in the media or privately?
Johnson: No, I said it to the media. Obviously, he’s the media darling and I get it. I’m 6-4. I’m the prototype — especially back then. He’s the underdog that people felt for. I get it. If I was an outsider, I probably would’ve been a fan of his more than me.
Doug is larger than life. There’s the “Flutie Flakes.” People are going insane over this little guy from the CFL. How difficult was it — mentally, day to day — when the entire city is falling in love with this other quarterback when you were originally picked as the guy to bring this franchise back?
Johnson: I know exactly when it happened. I was playing… my first year, I was probably top 3 in the league in QB rating. But we had lost. And we played the ‘Niners. They were undefeated with Steve Young and we beat them. Then, we played Peyton Manning the next week and we beat them but I got hurt. And the next week, we were playing Jacksonville. So, we had gotten it turned around. Jacksonville, I think, was undefeated. Doug didn’t play well the whole game. He throws a Hail Mary. It’s like 16-10 in the fourth quarter and we have one last chance. They blow a coverage and allow a 50-yard bomb down the sidelines with like 20 seconds left. It’s part of his “magic.” Three straight incompletions and then he runs it in — he keeps the ball — on a broken play and he scores a touchdown. I look at (back-up QB Alex) Van Pelt and I’m like, “Ah, f---, I’m done.” I knew it right then. The place was going bananas. I’m a realist that way. I get it. Ever since then, it was an uphill battle.
It wasn’t bad. It got bad when I was playing well and he was sitting because then he’d go behind my back and say shit or call up a press member and say something. That’s the most annoying part.
I can remember that game. I think I was there. He ran it in for the touchdown on that bootleg in the corner.
Johnson: Yeah, and it was a broken play. He was supposed to hand the ball off. We laugh. We knew he kept it because he wanted to keep it. Because that’s Doug.
Not exactly a broken play then.
Johnson: We didn’t think so. Me and Van Pelt would laugh. Doug’s not a bad guy. He fought through his whole life being short in a big man’s sport. He was a good player. My wife always laughs because people always ask about him. I say, “He was a good player,” and she can’t believe that because we didn’t get along very well. We’re two totally different types of people. And we were roommates the first two years on the road. It wasn’t bad. We were playing well and winning and I got hurt for four or five weeks, so I got it. But when the shoe was on the other foot, it wasn’t as good.
You guys were roommates? What was that relationship really like?
Johnson: It got bad. That next year, he didn’t play really well and that bugged me because they wouldn’t put me back in. We had the No. 1 defense and he wasn’t very good. We sucked on offense. We were winning because of our defense and our run game. They put me in late in the year and that’s when I started in the playoffs.
That ’99 team really could’ve won the Super Bowl with that defense being absolutely loaded. Some players then believed if you paired that defense with your right arm — I imagine you’re running these scenarios through your mind — that could’ve been a team that won it all.
Johnson: Yeah, because we had just beat Indianapolis 31-6 at our place and we would’ve played them in the next (divisional) round. Everyone respected that whoever won between us and Tennessee — because we both had really good defenses — they’d be in the Super Bowl. That was unfortunate that we didn’t get to roll it out. And then the next year, we got rid of half our guys because of the salary cap and we were 8-8 with a ton of injuries and probably the worst special teams in the history of special teams — you can look it up. We had fired our special teams coach, Bruce DeHaven, who was a very, very good coach. They fired him after the Music City Miracle and Wade (Phillips) hired one of his friends from Texas El-Paso who was coaching his son and he was a disaster. That hurt us just as much as losing guys because everyone loved Bruce.
That Week 17 game against the Colts — you have the game of your life — and, bam, you’re the starter in the playoffs. Did you have any idea that was coming? And what was that week like going into the Tennessee game?
Johnson: I was so excited. I remember in the locker room the next day, Wade comes up to me and says, “Rob, you’re starting this week.” And the first thing I said to him was, “Is this your call or is this Ralph’s call?” Because Ralph really liked me and Wade, being a defensive guy, I know he liked Doug. So he goes, “No, it’s my call, Rob.” I said, “Let’s roll.”
Do you take Wade at his word? Because that’s the big debate to this day. Everybody says it was Ralph’s call.
Johnson: Well, that’s why I asked. He told me flat-out. He looked me right in the eye and I believed him at the time. Our offense was struggling and I think, in three quarters, we put up more yards than we did all year against a solid team. The Colts were still playing for homefield.
You’re right. That’s a misconception — a lot of people say they rested their guys. But the Colts were playing to win that game.
Johnson: Yeah, they were going for homefield. A win helped them. Peyton played and he was getting his ass kicked. Our defense balled, so he was taking hits. If they weren’t playing for anything, he would not have been in there.
So you get the word from Wade, you start this playoff game and, if not for that Music City Miracle of a play, they’re building a “Shoeless Rob Johnson” statue outside that stadium for that play you made the drive before.
Johnson: You never know, right? Dude, I was so sore after that Tennessee game. That game was a shitshow. Our left tackle was playing through a knee injury and couldn’t get out of his stance, and Jevon Kearse hit me in the back for a fumble. Like, he couldn’t even get out of his stance. I think Thurman Thomas got hurt. Sam Gash got hurt. We had so many injuries. I remember our long-snapper was taking pass sets to get ready to go into the game because we were down to our last lineman. We almost had a brawl at halftime in the locker room because we were playing like shit. The defense started fighting with each other. And, yeah, we came together.
Really? Right in the locker room?
Johnson: Oh yeah. John Holocek and Bruce Smith almost went to blows. I was like, “What the f---?” I was pissed because we couldn’t have played worse. I guess Holocek thought Bruce was just rushing the passer and not playing the run. I have no idea. But Bruce had three sacks that game.
You’re down 12-0 at halftime, come out, and suddenly you’re alive with the two touchdown drives.
Johnson: Sometimes, fights are good.
I remember Eric Moulds saying he believed whoever won that game was going to the Super Bowl. Did you believe that yourself?
Johnson: Yeah, especially that time of year, it’s which defense is the hottest. This year, Tampa’s defense got hot. It’s that time of year, whoever’s playing the best defense—like the 49ers the year before—they should’ve beat the Chiefs if Garoppolo can just hit one or two passes at the end. It usually comes down to that so we had a feeling. It was kind of the last run of those great Bills — Bruce, Phil Hansen, Andre Reed, Thurman — so we had a good feeling. We had a good mix of old and young. And that division back then was so tough with Jimmy Johnson in Miami, Peyton with Indy and New England.
And to think about all of the what-ifs. If that return doesn’t happen, that drive you had at the end of the game was incredible. You have to look back at that fondly.
Johnson: Oh yeah. The kids ask about the shoe. So, they rip my shoe off and Dusty Ziegler, our center, threw it into the stands. The ref was telling me to get out of the game because of my shoe. I said, “Are you going to give me a timeout?” He said, “No.” So I snapped the ball.
Do the good memories overwhelm the bad memories when you think back to Buffalo? Have you gotten back to Buffalo?
Johnson: No, I haven’t been back but for no other reason. I’d love to take my kids to a game there. But the ownership and the people I was around aren’t there anymore. I have great memories. The first three years were great. Even with all the shit. It was a great group of guys, a great team. The last year sucked. We got rid of everyone. It wasn’t fun at all — like, at all. Nothing ends well, ever, and it had to end.
The injuries and the concussions — everything you played through is pretty insane. You were shooting yourself up to get through practice so Doug wouldn’t take reps, right? What did you play through that people don’t realize?
Johnson: Yeah, and the worst was I needed Tommy John surgery my first year there. I pitched through college. And I remember when we were playing the 49ers in the red zone, I hit my elbow right on a helmet on the follow-through. My arm wasn’t the same after that. I got through it. But it progressively got worse and worse. I lost my grip to where I couldn’t even pump gas or open up a refrigerator door. That was the hardest part — going onto the field and realizing, “Oh my God,” I can’t make some of these throws anymore. (Johnson finally got surgery in 2004.)
The concussions. And I’ve had three back surgeries. My back is fused now. I need a new hip.
I wouldn’t change a thing. I’m not complaining. I’m just talking about the injuries I have. You realize some guys are just built for football. I’m not. I’m very slight. I had to eat and work out a ton just to have any weight on me. When I tried to come back after Tommy John (in 2006 with New York) — you’d swear I was 15 pounds heavier than Eli (Manning) — and he was 230 and I could barely keep 208 through training camp. And I didn’t play smart. I held onto the ball too long. I tried to make every play a touchdown and you can’t play like that. Especially back then. Now, it’d be a lot better. They can’t pick you up and throw you down and all that shit. No helmet to helmet.
One of the biggest things and I can’t believe no one talks about it, is I think in 2006 or 2007, Peyton and Tom (Brady) went to the commissioner and got it so quarterbacks could actually work their balls in before games. Before, it was right out of the bag. And to tell you the truth, it was awful. To this day, that bugs me more than anything. I don’t understand how you can go into the game — and you throw for a living — and you’re worried if this ball is going to feel slick. One game, I threw three picks the first year. I had a broken right index finger. I couldn’t feel the ball. They weren’t worked in at all. I couldn’t feel the ball. Everything floated on me. It had nothing to do with anything. If I was able to work the ball in, it would’ve been so much better.
What game was that?
Johnson: The Saints (in 2001). It’s not like they tricked me or fooled me. It was just all bad balls. I did not like to throw picks and I did not like to throw incompletions. You should see my finger. I still can’t bend it all the way — my right index finger. They made us come in early that year to learn a new offense with a new coach. So I was in with the rookies and hit it twice, back to back, on a rookie running back’s helmet that didn’t get out of the way when you’re throwing. It’s like curved to the right now.
Did you think about surgery? Shutting it down?
Johnson: Everyone says to “Trust doctors.” First, I came back and they say, “Oh, it’s just a bad sprain. You’ll be alright.” I remember, I didn’t even sit out practice. I’m like, “I can’t grip the ball. The snap hurts.” Your index finger is your most important finger. It’s the last thing that touches the ball. You want to be out there, first of all, and then they put pressure on you. You don’t want to miss, so it’s a bad combination. Nowadays, I look back like, “Dude, what were you doing?” I always looked up to guys like Favre and McMahon and hear about them playing through shit so you’re like, “Oh, I can do it.” But, no, not everyone can do it.
What does it really look like when a team really is putting the pressure on you to play?
Johnson: It’s like you don’t exist. And it’s a horrible feeling. Days that normally fly by are 10 times as long. You don’t feel part of the team. It’s the worst. No one wants to sit out. I think they’re doing a better job of it now — that was the culture back then. You’d play through anything. I remember against the Colts, my first year, I separated rib cartilage so the ball got in-between my ribs and popped them apart. So I go in, I shoot it up and I go back out and I looked at Van Pelt and was like, “Even if I can lift my arm up, I don’t think I could play.” I was so drugged up. We learned it at USC — that’s what you do. It was part of the culture, it’s not right and I’d still do it again just to play. You’re in a lot of pain and you want to play at your best level. The doctor says, “Do this,” and you’ll do it.
And if you’re taking time off, at that point, you’re done, right? You’re disposal?
Johnson: Oh yeah. 100 percent. Like Jimmy Garoppolo’s a good quarterback but he gets hurt all the time. So they went and drafted a guy. If you can’t stay healthy — and I coach high school now — and it sucks. If you’re depending on a guy and he can’t stay healthy, you’re looking for a replacement. Not that you don’t like the guy but it’s “F---, I can’t count on him.” In college, I had like 35 straight starts. I didn’t have an injury problem at all. And I was a lot heavier then. I was fat. When I was in college, it was the “pocket passer.” Everyone was 6-4, 230. I wasn’t a natural 230. I didn’t take steroids or anything but it was more fat to keep that weight. So I lost a bunch. So maybe I was too skinny or just playing stupid or just getting hit by grown-ass men that did it. Playing on turf didn’t help either. That turf sucks. Your head would bounce like four feet when you hit the turf. It’s hard. Like a basketball. I’m glad they outlawed all that shit.
How many concussions did you have?
Johnson: Probably five or six diagnosed. Big ones. Where you don’t know where you’re at for a few minutes. Nowadays, you come right now. If you wobble at all, you’re in the tent. Which is great.
I had a really big one. Once you get one huge one, you’re more susceptible to them. I’ve learned that. Just through brain trauma stuff. I remember Steve Young and Troy Aikman… I think Troy retired from his last big concussion when LaVar Arrington hit him. And then Troy in the Super Bowl, one of the games against Buffalo, he doesn’t remember anything. Leigh Steinberg had to write down all the questions and answers for him. People didn’t know how bad it was.
And one of the quarterbacks after you in Buffalo, Kevin Kolb, by his fourth or fifth concussion, he’s driving here in Buffalo, drifts into the other lane and almost kills himself in a head-on collision. It gets worse and worse and worse the more you have concussions.
Johnson: Wow. That’s when you’re like, “OK.” I do hyperbaric oxygen now. We have Alzheimer’s in our family anyways and it’s good for that. Hopefully more teams are doing it. Even in Jacksonville — my first year, in ’95 — we had the sleeping bag of oxygen where guys go in but I don’t think it’s as good as what I do where it’s like a glass tube and you lay in there. It’s really good for injuries to your brain. … I remember Jeremy Shockey, when I was in New York, we went out one night and had some fun. He’s like, “You’ve got to stay the night. You’re going to sleep good in this oxygen tank. You’ll feel amazing in the morning.” So, guys were using it back then but the technology’s better now.
What was your worst concussion?
Johnson: I was actually backing up in a game — we were playing Philly at home and I got in for a couple series. It was just an “A”-gap (blitz) right up the middle. I tried to get away. And he flipped me…I remember I had turf all over my face. So he picked me up and slammed me or my head got smashed against the turf. It was a big guy, too. I was pretty bad for four or five weeks.
Did you black out?
Johnson: Oh, God, yeah. It was one of those deals where guys are asking questions and laughing at you for your answers. I remember my girlfriend was there. They asked, “Do you have anyone to go home with?” I said, “Nope.” (laughs) I had my whole family there. I didn’t even know where we played the week before. … Ralph sent me down on his private jet to a doctor in Florida. I went to see this doctor and he did this manipulation to my mouth to get my jaw… I don’t even know. I had little concussions after that but never a major one. Ralph was such a sweetheart. I wanted to win for him so bad. (John) Butler was awesome. AJ (Smith) was awesome. That’s how people went to Buffalo. If you had a choice, would you rather go to Miami or Buffalo? Buffalo was getting guys just because the organization was so good. Such a great organization. And then you go up there and you fall in love with the people.
When I was there, there was 800,000 in the greater Buffalo area and we’d get 80,000 to every game. That’s like 10 percent of the population. That’s crazy, crazy support.
With the fans, you could easily have a different reaction. By the end of it, I’m sure they weren’t as nice to you.
Johnson: Oh no, they hated me. But you know what? I get it. Half are going to hate me because they liked Flutie. Half are going to like me. We freakin’ sucked and we were bad and I was pissed and I wanted out. I didn’t like (Tom) Donahoe. We lost Butler. The year before, I tried to get cut so I could go to San Diego with John. They ended up keeping me — Donahoe kept me over Flutie (in 2001). I tried to get cut. I remember I lived in Laguna Beach. I was driving down PCH and I pulled over to talk to him. I said, “I’m not going to show up if you pick me.” He’s like, “You’ll show up.” I remember it, I said, “The community wants Doug. Everything’s fine. We’re good.” And I knew I could sign with San Diego and John. And I love John. I knew we were going to suck because we were getting rid of everyone. But I didn’t like Tom Donahoe at all. I was in a bad place. I didn’t trust too many people at that time. It was just a shitty situation. I probably wouldn’t have liked myself either at that time. I totally get it.
But then, in 2002, you win a Super Bowl with Tampa Bay.
Johnson: I went down there to beat out Brad (Johnson) and Brad was the perfect choice for that team. Our defense was even better than the Buffalo defense—way better. All-time. I was more of a gunslinger and he was perfect. Didn’t make mistakes. A really solid quarterback. And we got along real well. I got two starts and got two wins and we wouldn’t have gotten homefield if we didn’t get those wins so I feel good about that.
III. Life today
You mentioned the Alzheimer’s in your family. That has to be scary after suffering all of your concussions. How rampant is that? And are you worried down the road with where your brain is going to be?
Johnson: I try not to think about it too much. I live my life like I’m going to get it. Meaning, I’m super healthy. I don’t eat too bad. I eat brain foods. I get good sleep. I don’t drink. I do the hyperbaric. My Dad has it really bad right now — he’s at Stage 5. His Dad had it and his uncle. I don’t have the gene which helps out but it doesn’t mean you’re not going to get it.
It’s an awful disease. I know my Dad. He wouldn’t want to be around like this where he doesn’t know anyone. That’s what the worst part is. Physically, he’s a horse. He’s a stud. And then he doesn’t know the difference between a shoe and a car. He doesn’t have words. So, that’s really hard to watch. It’s like he isn’t even the same person. I know, as his son, he’d say, “Just take me out back.” He would not want to live like this. But then you see, he still has some good days where you’re like, “Oh, well…” It’s just a horrible disease.
I can’t imagine.
Johnson: We haven’t had too many tragedies in our life. He had 70-something years of a pretty sweet life. If you had that option in the beginning of your life, you’d probably take it. So I think about that. We’ve been so blessed and lucky in our family that it helps me get by — looking at the big picture. Yeah, it sucks right now. But he had an amazing life and helped so many kids. We coached with him for 10 years. Great family memories. I look back at it, like, “He’s had an amazing life and this is a short period.” That’s how I get through it.
Are you with your Dad day to day? For people who don’t understand, what’s life like?
Johnson: My brother takes care of him. We have four kids. Alzheimer’s is very sensory — noise bugs him. And we have four young kids so that would absolutely drive him nuts. And he needs constant supervision. With four kids, we’re never home. But my brother has done an amazing job. Like, unbelievable.
That’s a heart of gold, it really is. And you’re also coaching still, right?
Johnson: JSerra. Our head coach is actually stepping down: Pat Harlow. He played for the Patriots, SC, was a first round draft pick I’m not going to take it. Too much work. … So we stopped coaching at Mission Viejo High School which is the powerhouse out here when my Dad had to retire. And then I’ve just been coaching all my kids’ teams. My daughter goes to high school now and asked, “Dad, will you coach at the school I go to?” I’m like, “Oh my God. Yes, I’ll do that.” I didn’t really plan on doing it. Maybe when my boys get older to help them out.
How old are your kids?
Johnson: 14, 13, 11 and eight. I’m an “Uber driver.” Now that Covid is over, every sport is going on. My son is on four different teams right now. It’s insane. My daughter even said, “Dad, I kind of miss quarantine.” Because all we do, every day, is just run around. Every sport is going on out here. We have flag football, basketball and baseball all going on. Thank God I don’t have a serious job and my wife doesn’t work. I don’t know how people with actual jobs do it. I coach a lot of the teams. My son plays on two basketball teams — one his age, one up, then he plays flag and he’s on a baseball team.
So life is good for you today, you’d say?
Johnson: It’s amazing. I’m so lucky. And I owe a lot to Buffalo. Ralph, getting that big contract from him, I’m very thankful. My life is awesome.
It’s probably time for you to come on back to Buffalo and wave that flag before a game then? They win now so everyone looks back at your teams with reverence and nostalgia.
Johnson: I’ll definitely get back there. Funny thing: Josh Allen trains at my high school because the guy that my Dad mentored and tutored took over his job at Elite 11 — Jordan Palmer. So my Dad coached him. My Dad coached Carson and then he had Jordan of course and then I coached Jordan when he was trying to make it into the pros. So, indirectly, I’m helping out still.
I still love Buffalo. I still root for Buffalo. I want them to get a Super Bowl. I know they’d find that hard to believe but I am not a bitter person. I love it. Those games where it’s rockin’ up there, there was only one quarterback who was able to lead a comeback in the fourth quarter. Other than that, when we got a lead in the fourth quarter, with the pass rush on the turf, no one came back.
That offseason Josh Allen spent with Jordan Palmer seemed to completely change his game, too.
Johnson: Jordan’s very good and my Dad was an amazing quarterback coach. My Dad would develop guys from a real young age. When you get these pro guys, you’re just tweaking a few things. He’s with Brian Daboll most of the time and Josh did it. We kind of just work ‘em out to tell you the truth. When you’re in the pocket, you don’t have time to make sure your hips are all right… that’s all the offseason bullshit. Josh is an amazing athlete and he’s worked his ass off. Jordan has helped him but I give the credit to all the quarterbacks. We had Kirk Cousins. My Dad had him since he was young and Kirk’s an amazing guy but Kirk is a stud. He threw the ball great before we got him. And he works his ass off. He started in DC the last game of the year and, two days later, he calls me and says, “Hey, Rob, do you want to get some workouts in?” I was like, “You want to get the soreness out?” He said, “No, I want to start throwing.” I’m like, “Holy shit.”
Elite 11, my Dad started that. Once ESPN got involved and started picking the guys, he wasn’t into that anymore. He started it at the grassroots with Andy Bark. So I helped him out with that when I was still playing. And when I was done, he always trained the guys for my agent into the draft.
How it got started, my agent funded it. I was coming out of SC so he was recruiting me. My Dad had this idea and started doing this. … My Dad was a teacher and my Mom didn’t work so we didn’t have a huge house. We’d have all 11 kids in sleeping bags at our house. That’s how grassroots it was. He’d literally drive from Auburn to Florida, go to all these camps, and pick out the best 11 that he liked. Then, he’d have an elite camp.
I know you said you don’t drink but we’ll have to get you on a Happy Hour at Go Long soon.
Johnson: I drink but just not that much. I’ll throw back a whiskey or two.
Miss any of our past Bills features at Go Long?