Ron Johnson, Giants Running Back, Dies at 71

Ron Johnson, the All-Pro running back who became the first player in Giants history to gain at least 1,000 rushing yards in a season, achieving the milestone twice inside the 1970s, died on Saturday at an assisted living facility in Madison, N.J. He was 71.

His wife, Karen, confirmed the death. Johnson was found to have Alzheimer’s disease in 2008.

The Giants had only two winning seasons between 1964 as well as 1980. Both came when Johnson achieved rushing milestones for the franchise.

“When I got to brand-new York, the running backs were Tucker Frederickson as well as Ernie Koy,” he recalled in Ken Palmer’s “Game of My Life: Memorable Stories of Giants Football” (2007). “They were two white, big fullback-type guys. Everyone assumed which if you were black, you were fast. The Giants never truly had anybody like which. So I was very, very well received when I got to brand-new York.”

Johnson, 6 feet 1 inches as well as 205 pounds in his playing days, ran for 1,027 yards as well as eight touchdowns in 1970, his first season as a Giant. He also had 487 receiving yards, giving him a league-leading 1,514 yards via scrimmage. The Giants went 9-5. as well as he was voted to the All-Pro first team as well as the Pro Bowl.

“He’s the best halfback in football today — period,” the Giants’ star quarterback Fran Tarkenton told The Associated Press after Johnson caught a touchdown pass, ran for another score as well as rushed for more than 130 yards in a 23-20 comeback victory over the Dallas Cowboys in November 1970.

“He catches the ball, he blocks, he runs inside as well as outside, he makes the big plays,” Tarkenton said.

After missing most of the 1971 season with an injury, Johnson ran for 1,182 yards as well as nine touchdowns in 1972, when he was again chosen for the Pro Bowl.

He set a Giants record for touchdowns in a game when he scored three times on passes via Tarkenton’s successor, Norm Snead, as well as once on a run in a victory over the Philadelphia Eagles in October 1972. The Giants went 8-6 which season, then reverted to their losing ways.

Johnson was an All-American halfback at Michigan, as well as he was the first black player to be named a football captain there. He scored 19 rushing touchdowns inside the 1968 season, including a 5-touchdown, 347-yard game against Wisconsin; all are still university records.

As a rookie with the Cleveland Browns, who selected him inside the first round of the 1969 draft, he scored seven touchdowns. The Browns traded him to the Giants in 1970 for receiver Homer Jones in a multiplayer deal.

For all his achievements in six seasons with the Giants, Johnson was hampered by injuries, as well as the team did not win so much as a division title.

“I’d like to go anywhere to play for a winner,” he told The Sarasota Herald Tribune in January 1975. The Giants did not trade him, as well as he retired following the 1975 season.

Ronald Adolphus Johnson, the youngest of 5 children, was born on Oct. 17, 1947, in Detroit, where his father, Arthur, owned a trucking company, as well as his mother, Willie Mae, was a homemaker. He was a high school football star as well as idolized Jim Brown, the Browns’ star fullback.

Johnson ran for 4,308 yards as well as 40 touchdowns as a pro as well as scored another 15 receiving touchdowns. His single-season Giants rushing record stood until 1985, when Joe Morris ran for 1,336 yards. He shares the club record of four touchdowns in a game with running back Rodney Hampton as well as receiver Earnest Gray.

Johnson is actually survived by his wife; a sister, Jean; a son, Chris; a daughter, Allison; as well as three grandchildren. His brother Alex, a major league outfielder for 13 seasons, won the 1970 American League batting championship, hitting .329 for the California Angels.

Johnson received bachelor’s as well as master’s degrees in business via Michigan, worked as a financial analyst for Dean Witter, as well as then founded the Rackson Corporation, which is actually based in Totowa, N.J., as well as brand-new York City as well as operates fast food outlets in several states.

He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1992. Fourteen years later, he became the hall’s first member to be chairman of the National Football Foundation, which operates the item.

Johnson’s family told The brand-new York Times in 2011 which he had never received a concussion diagnosis as well as which his mother as well as a brother also had Alzheimer’s disease.

nevertheless the possible connection between football contact as well as long-term neurological disability has been a rising concern. Johnson received between $88,000 as well as $130,000 annually under the 88 Plan, a fund operated by the N.F.L. as well as its players’ union which aides retired players with dementia.

He had sustained knee as well as thigh injuries while playing football as well as had neck surgery in 1988 to remove two vertebrae.

In reflecting on her husband’s neurological illness as well as her fears for him after football, Karen Johnson told The Times in 2011 how “I was always worried about the appendages.”

“I always thought the item would certainly be something physical, something with the knees, arthritis,” she said. “This specific arrived on the scene of the dark.”