Earlier today Johnson was named as one of seventeen members being inducted to the 2012 class.
Johnson put together a 52-9 run at Miami between 1984 and 1988 – five of those losses coming year one. JJ’s Canes went 34-2 over a three-year span, playing for two titles, losing one (1986), winning one (1987) and getting snubbed at a shot in playing for a third straight (1988). In year two (1985), Miami went 10-2, falling to Tennessee in the Sugar Bowl, with a shot at a title due to Penn State’s loss to Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl.
He also left the cupboard stocked for predecessor Dennis Erickson, who went 33-3 his first three seasons at Miami, winning two titles (1989 and 1991) and fielding a team that fell a few games short, but was still one of the nation’s best by season’s end (1990).
Johnson is the third UM coach to reach the College Football Hall Of Fame, joining Jack Harding (1980) and Andy Gustafson (1985), but is the lone national champion of the bunch. He also marks the ninth person with UM ties to be inducted, adding himself to a list that includes Don Bosseler (1990), Ted Hendricks (1987), Gino Torretta (2009), Arnold Tucker (2008), Bennie Blades (2006) and Russell Maryland (2011).
The Herald’s Manny Navarro had some good quotes in his piece, one from Johnson and one from running back Melvin Bratton, who played under him in the mid-80s.
“I’m really happy for him,” said Bratton, who starred in the 1988 national championship game before blowing out his knee. “Motivation-wise he was the type of guy that could get you psyched up mentally to the point where he could get you to run through a wall for him. He was a players’ coach, too.
“I was the team clown and he let me be that guy. I used to go in and take the letterhead from his office from his secretary and post notes on guys’ lockers telling them Coach Johnson wanted to see them. It lasted for a while where nobody knew who it was. But when he found out he just laughed. We had a lot of fun together.”
When speaking about the win over the Sooners, Johnson stated: “We played our way to this championship. What is sweetest is that we did it as a team. We lost starters and had other guys come in and played magnificently.”
The 1987 run truly was a thing of beauty. Not only did Miami string together it’s first undefeated season, the Canes did so with a team in rebuild mode – losing star players like running back Alonzo Highsmith, defensive end Jerome Brown and Heisman trophy-winning quarterback Vinny Testaverde - all selected within the first nine picks of the 1987 NFL Draft, UM went on to do the unthinkable, winning twelve straight, culminating with a win over the top-ranked Sooners, for the national championship.
During the regular season Miami beat No. 20 Florida, No. 10 Arkansas, No. 4 Florida State, No. 10 Notre Dame and No. 8 South Carolina, en route to the showdown against No. 1 Oklahoma.
Talk about a schedule and run college football won’t soon see again … and talk about a benchmark of a coach for UM. Howard Schnellenberger got UM off the ground and on a roll, but Johnson came in and took it to another level.
Congrats, Coach. The honor is well-earned. – C.B.