A five-time Super Bowl champion, Pepper Johnson will enter his 15th year in the NFL coaching ranks in 2014 as he joins the Bills’ coaching staff as the team’s defensive line coach. Johnson spent the past 14 seasons working for the New England Patriots, serving in a variety of roles including eight seasons (2004-11) as the team’s defensive line coach.
Throughout his career, Johnson has been a part of five Super Bowl championship teams, earning a pair of rings during his illustrious 13-year playing career and also contributing to three championship teams as a Patriots assistant coach.
Under the tutelage of Bill Parcells, Bill Belichick and Nick Saban as a player, Johnson went on to spent 14 seasons on the Patriots defensive coaching staff which led to the New England defense finishing in the top 10 in fewest points allowed per game 10 times.
In 2012, Johnson made the switch from coaching the Patriots defensive line to the team’s linebackers.Under his tutelage, LB Jerod Mayo and LB Brandon Spikes finished as the top two tacklers on the team. It was the first season since 2009 that the team’s top-two tacklers emerged from the same position.
Prior to coaching the team’s linebackers, Johnson oversaw New England’s defensive line for eight seasons. Johnson’s first season as the Patriots defensive line coach in 2004 coincided with the team drafting DT Vince Wilfork, who under Johnson’s tutelage has become of the premier defensive tackles in the NFL. Over the first 10 seasons of his career, Wilfork has been named to five Pro Bowls—four of which came directly under Johnson’s watch.
In addition to his successes coaching Wilfork, during Johnson’s stint as the Patriots’ defensive line coach he helped both DE Mark Anderson and DE Andre Carter enjoy double digit sack seasons in 2011.The 2011 season marked Carter’s first and only career Pro Bowl appearance.
Johnson originally entered the NFL coaching ranks as part of the NFL’s summer coaching fellowship in the summer of 2000.He spent the season with the Patriots as a defensive assistant, working primarily with the linebackers.
In 2001, Johnson joined the staff as the inside linebackers coach, the same position at which he excelled for 13 NFL seasons. After injuries sidelined LBs Ted Johnson and Bryan Cox in 2001, LB Tedy Bruschi made the transition from outside to inside linebacker and helped fuel the Patriots defense through a season-ending win streak that culminated with a Super Bowl title. In 2002 under Johnson’s watch, linebackers Roman Phifer and Ted Johnson finished first and second in tackles with 109 and 96 tackles, respectively. It was the first time two linebackers led the Patriots in tackles since 1994.
Johnson started 158-of-193 regular season games and played for four different teams during his 13-year NFL career from 1986-98. The two-time Pro Bowl performer won Super Bowl titles as a member of the New York Giants in 1986 and again in 1990.His presence helped form one of the most dominant defensive units in the history of the game.In 13 seasons, he totaled over 1,200 tackles, leading his team in tackles six different times. He also notched 25 ½ sacks, forced 12 fumbles, recovering eight, and intercepted 14 passes, including two that he returned for touchdowns.
A two-time co-captain and defensive MVP at Ohio State, Johnson was drafted by the New York Giants in the second round of the 1986 NFL Draft after an All-American campaign as a senior for the Buckeyes in 1985.
Thomas “Pepper” Johnson was born July 29, 1964 in Detroit, Mich. He was nicknamed “Pepper” by an aunt who observed his ritual of sprinkling pepper on his breakfast cereal as a youngster. After an all-star prep career at MacKenzie High in Detroit, Johnson was named to Michigan’s all-decade team for the 1980s.Johnson became a scholar-athlete at Ohio State, where he majored in counseling and physical education. In 1999, his alma mater named him to the school’s all-century team.In 2001, he was inducted into the Ohio State Hall of Fame.He formed Pepper Johnson Enterprises, a non-profit community organization that operates in Detroit to support youth and anti-crime programs.Johnson has a son, Dionte, and a daughter, Aanjeya.