American Football Wiki
John Henry Johnson
Personal Information
Jersey #(s)
Born (1929-11-24)November 24, 1929
Waterproof, Louisiana, U.S.
Died June 3, 2011(2011-06-03) (aged 81)
Tracy, California, U.S.
Career information
Year(s) 19541966
NFL Draft 1953 / Round: 2 / Pick: 18
College Arizona State
Professional teams
Career stats
Rushing Yards 6,803
Average 4.3
Touchdowns 48
Stats at
Career highlights and awards

  • Pro Bowl selection (1954, 1962, 1963, 1964)
  • All-Pro selection (1954, 1962)

John Henry Johnson (November 24, 1929 – June 3, 2011)[1] was a Fullback. He played from 1954 to 1965 for the San Francisco 49ers, the Detroit Lions, and the Pittsburgh Steelers of the National Football League. Outside of the NFL, Johnson also played one season with the Calgary Stampeders of the Canadian Football League in 1953, and with the Houston Oilers of the American Football League in 1966.

College football[]

Prior to his professional career, he split his college career between Saint Mary's College of California and Arizona State University. He was also a member of Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity.

Professional career[]

He is best remembered for being a member of the 49ers famed "Million Dollar Backfield". Upon his retirement, John was ranked fourth on pro football's all-time rushing list, behind only Jim Brown, Jim Taylor and his fellow "Million Dollar Backfield" teammate, Joe Perry. He is also still currently ranked fourth on the all-time Steelers rushing list, behind only Franco Harris, Jerome Bettis, and Willie Parker. In 1987, he was selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The 49ers "Million Dollar Backfield" is currently the only full-house backfield to have all four of its members enshrined in the Hall of Fame.


On Friday, June 3, 2011, Johnson died in Tracy, California at the age of 81.[2] On June 9, 2011, it was announced that Johnson and his fellow "Million Dollar Backfield" teammate, Joe Perry, who died on April 25, 2011, would have their brains examined by researchers at Boston University who are studying head injuries in sports. Both men were suspected of suffering form Chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a disorder linked to repeated brain trauma. According to his daughter, Johnson couldn't talk or swallow in the final year of his life and also was in a wheelchair. She told the San Francisco Chronicle that she hopes by donating her father's brain, it will "help with a cure."[3]

See also[]


  1. Steve Corkran. "Former 49ers star John Henry Johnson dies", San Jose Mercury News, June 3, 2011. 
  2. Richard Goldstein. "John Henry Johnson Dies at 81; Inspired Fear on the Field", The New York Times, June 5, 2011. 
  3. "Researchers to study 49ers RBs",, ESPN. Retrieved on 2011-06-09. 

External links[]