Hall of Famer Johnson dies at 81

Hall of Fame running back John Henry Johnson died Friday. He was


The San Francisco 49ers said in a release Saturday that Johnson,

who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1987 after a

14-season NFL career, died in Tracy.

A member of the ”Million Dollar Backfield,” Johnson played

three seasons for the 49ers (1954-56). A four-time Pro Bowler

(1954, 1962-64), Johnson’s 6,803 career yards rushing trailed only

Jim Brown, Jim Taylor and former 49er Joe Perry upon his retirement

in 1966. Johnson was also a productive receiver, catching 186

passes for 1,478 yards. He scored 55 touchdowns during his


Johnson also played one season in the CFL before joining San


”I was deeply saddened to hear of John Henry Johnson’s

passing,” said 49ers owner John York. ”He was a good friend, not

only to my family and me, but the entire 49ers organization. As a

member of the ”Million Dollar Backfield” he holds a cherished

place in both 49ers and NFL history. His contributions to the game

of football will be forever celebrated.

”Our heartfelt sympathy goes out to the entire Johnson


That acclaimed backfield included three other future Hall of

Famers: Perry, Hugh McElhenny and Y.A. Tittle. The group remains

the only full-house backfield to have all four of its members

enshrined in the Hall of Fame.

Drafted in the second round (18th overall) by the Steelers in

1953, Johnson went to play in the Canadian Football League for one

season instead. He then joined San Francisco.

In his rookie year with the 49ers, Johnson ranked second in the

league with 681 yards rushing and a 5.3-yard average, scoring nine

touchdowns. He finished his three-year stint in San Francisco with

1,051 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns, 279 yards receiving on 38


Johnson went on to play for the Detroit Lions (1957-59),

Steelers (1960-65) and Houston Oilers (1966) of the American

Football League. The Lions won their last NFL title with Johnson on

the team in 1957.