NFL careers are a funny thing. You can have a great career with a team like the Miami Dolphins, Green Bay Packers, or Pittsburgh Steelers, complete with incredible stats. Still, if you never win a Super Bowl, well, people only remember what you don't have.
No matter how many MVPs you earn, people will remember you as someone who couldn't win it all.
But NFL careers can work in reverse, too.
You can have a crappy career with a teams such as the Arizona Cardinals, or maybe even the Detroit Lions. But win a Super Bowl, and immortalization is yours. ESPN and CBS will rave, you'll be the toast of New York, and talking heads will remind everyone that no one can take that ring from you.
So much greatness is defined by an athlete's ability to win one game in a team sport. Such is the nature of legacy. Such is the legacy of former NFL quarterback Brad Johnson.
Brad Johnson is a lucky guy. He's a talented guy, but he's lucky, too. Unfortunately, his NFL career was largely uninspired. But he did win the NFC and Super Bowl in 2002.
Nobody can take that ring from Brad Johnson, especially not Nikki Johnson. She already sports her own bling, but she got it by being Johnson's wife. I'd call the circumstances that brought the pair together luck, though I think they'd prefer fate.
Whatever it was, they've been happily married for more than 20 years.
Brad Johnson met his wife through a series of fortunate events. But, as circumstances would have it, Brad and Nikki Johnson's children are talented football stars, too.
Even more talented, perhaps, than even their father.
Early Life & College Days
James Bradley Johnson was born just north of Atlanta in Marietta, GA. The Johnsons moved to North Carolina, where Brad played on the football and basketball team. After high school, he was a two-sport athlete at Florida State University.
Brad Johnson joined the FSU Seminoles football team in 1988. A young Mark Richt was working in his last season as a graduate assistant coach under Bobby Bowden. Mark Richt's younger sister Nikki Richt was a volleyball star four hours from Tallahassee at the University of South Florida.
So Richt tried to hook Johnson up with the young volleyball star. But the pair never met in college.
We remind Viking fans that Brad Johnson was a Varsity Basketball and Football player at Florida State. He started in his Freshman year in March Madness here. When he brushes his hair, that is a signal to his Mom at home that he okay at school. pic.twitter.com/EeNWyy2cas
— VikeFans (@VikeFans) March 20, 2021
As a dual-sport student-athlete, Johnson attended a March Madness and Sugar Bowl. Johnson was a bowl-winning machine in Tallahassee, taking the Fiesta Bowl, Blockbuster Bowl, and Cotton Bowl before graduation.
But Johnson's college career established a pattern: sometimes he'd start, and sometimes he wouldn't. Sometimes he'd play great and other times not so much.
This hot-and-cold play followed Johnson to the NFL.
Brad Johnson's NFL Career
Brad Johnson had a 15-year NFL career with four different teams. He attended two Pro Bowls and won a Super Bowl. Those shining stat lines aside, Johnson had a mediocre NFL career.
He won Super Bowl XXXVII with Jon Gruden and Tampa Bay, but is probably best known as a quarterback for Minnesota. The Vikings drafted Johnson deep in the the round of the 1992 NFL Draft, but he could never nail down the purple starting gig for long.
Unfortunately, he couldn't nail down his love life, either.
During his first season in Minnesota, Johnson finally met Mark Richt's little sister Nikki. Richt set the pair on a blind date, and things between them were colder than a Minnesota Christmas. Johnson decided Nikki wasn't the one and shifted his focus to football.
His best seasons with the Minnesota Vikings came years later during the 1996 and 1997 campaigns. Johnson didn't start all the regular-season games, but he did have a winning record when he did start.
October 12, 1997: Vikings QB Brad Johnson throws a TD pass to himself vs the Panthers. pic.twitter.com/e5ZNzXCUzr
— This Day In Sports Clips (@TDISportsClips) October 12, 2020
That's an extremely, extremely rare self-completion for a touchdown, but it's legit and on the books. Johnson was the only NFL player to do it until 2018 when Mariota tossed a touchdown to himself. But in 1997, Brad Johnson was the only one who'd done it, which is pretty rad.
There, he again ran into Mark Richt. This time, Johnson asked to see Nikki, so Richt made a phone call, and BAM! It worked. Nikki Richt and Brad Johnson's second meeting sparked a love connection in 1998.
In 1999, Johnson led the Redskins Football Team to a 10-6 regular season, making his first two Pro Bowls. His winning record indicated an unexpected career comeback. From 1999-2002, Johnson strung together four winning seasons in a row.
This undeniable renaissance as a quarterback was the best period of his career. Johnson was also married in 1999, which must has something to do with his resurgence.
Brad Johnson married the now-Nikki Johnson in 1999 after dating for one year. They rekindled their romance in Florida, and in the Sunshine State, Johnson's NFL career reached its peak.
Super Bowl Victory & Final NFL Seasons
After a winning Y2K season in D.C., where he threw more interceptions than touchdowns, Johnson went to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Tony Dungy. The Bucs had a winning 2001 season, but management wanted more. They fired Dungy and traded the Oakland Raiders for coach Chucky.
Jon Gruden, Brad Johnson, and the Tampa Bay Bucs defeated Oakland after the 2002 season to win Super Bowl XXXVII. Johnson had a Pro Bowl season and so-so offseason.
But it was good enough to win, making Johnson the only Tampa quarterback with a Super Bowl not named Tom Brady. (Also, like Tom Brady, he paid someone to alter the game balls.)
Johnson never put together a winning season again. It was almost as if he reached the peak and stopped trying. Of course, Johnson didn't stop trying. But he never did achieve the same heights.
Johnson spent two more years in Tampa, two more years in Minnesota, and two final years with the Dallas Cowboys before retiring. He backed up Tony Romo in 2008 and officially retired in 2010.
By then, Johnson had been married for over a decade and had two children.
Brad Johnson's Family & Sons
— Brad Johnson ?BigBadBrad14? (@Brad_Johnson_14) April 9, 2021
Brad and Nikki Johnson's love story was a long time in the making, but the Johnson marriage has flourished.
The Johnson family is now four, with sons Jake and Max Johnson. The family lives in the University of Georgia college town of Athens, GA, where Mark Richt spent the bulk of his career as a head coach.
Richt purchased a home in Athens to be close to family in 2021. His family includes his sister Nikki, her husband Brad, and their two football star sons.
— Brad Johnson ?BigBadBrad14? (@Brad_Johnson_14) May 6, 2021
Brad Johnson's oldest son Max Johnson is fighting to become the LSU Tigers' starting quarterback as we speak. He saw a few snaps as a freshman in 2020 and showed promise. But he'll need more than that to avoid repeating his father's career.
Then again, with one Super Bowl, he could do worse.
The youngest, Jake Johnson, still plays high school football for Oconee County High School. The Class of 2022 tight end received interest from Alabama, Clemson, and Florida, but committed to play at LSU, which makes sense -- that's where Max Johnson plays now.
She's partially responsible for Johnson's career breakthrough in the early 2000s and has raised two more football stars since then.
Mark Richt may be a great football recruiter, but his sister Nikki is a great football producer. She and former quarterback Brad Johnson produced a family built around football, and their dynasty has only begun.
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