Bobby Johnson enters his first year at the helm of Vanderbilt football
armed with a legacy of integrity, character, intelligence, motivation
and winning tradition.
The South Carolina native arrives from Furman University with the
ideal combination of professional success and personal well-being
to succeed in turning around the Commodore football program.
Johnson comes to Nashville with few accomplishments unfulfilled
at Furman. During an eight-year reign as head coach, Johnson guided
the Paladins to a 60-36 overall record, NCAA I-AA national runnerup
finish, four NCAA appearances and a pair of Southern Conference
titles. He mentored an abundance of I-AA All-Americans, including
2000 Walter Payton Award winner Louis Ivory.
In 2001, Johnson directed Furman to the pinnacle of I-AA success.
The Paladins claimed a share of the Southern Conference, then scored
three playoff wins to reach the I-AA finals for the first time since
1988. One of the victories was a dramatic 24-17 win over two-time
defending champion Georgia Southern which earned the Paladins a
berth in the I-AA finals. In the NCAA finals, Furman narrowly lost
to #1 Montana 13-6.
The 2001 success was the culmination of a tremendous rebuilding
job by Johnson. The tradition-rich Paladins were coming off three
disappointing seasons when Johnson was named head coach in 1994,
after spending a year as defensive coordinator at his alma mater,
Johnsonís revitalization effort at Furman started with a 3-8 season
in 1994. The next season, Johnson led a youthful Furman squad to
a winning season, 6-5, and renewed respect in the Southern Conference.
The winning combination mushroomed in 1996 as Furman went 6-0 at
home enroute to a 9-4 finish and the schoolís first NCAA appearance
and Top 20 ranking in six years. During the playoffs, the Paladins
scored an impressive 42-31 road victory over Northern Arizona before
losing to Marshall. Johnson received the first of three Region II
Coach of the Year honors by the American Football Coaches Association.
That year, he also coached All-American tight end Luther Broughton,
the first Paladin NFL draftee in a decade.
Johnsonís 1997 and 1998 Furman squads, expected to contend for
the Southern Conference championship, struggled to continue the
schoolís football tradition, finishing 7-4 and 5-6, respectively.
In 1999, Johnson guided the Paladins back to championship form,
posting a 9-3 record, capturing an NCAA playoff berth and the teamís
10th Southern Conference championship. The team was ousted from
the playoffs by defending national champion Massachuetts 30-23 in
overtime. The Paladinsí three losses were by a total of 12 points.
Johnsonís team also handily defeated North Carolina 28-3, its first
I-A win since 1985. A seven-game win streak ended against eventual
I-AA champion Georgia Southern, 41-38. The Paladins featured a bevy
of stars, including running back Louis Ivory, NFL draftees John
Keith and Des Kitchings and academic All-Americans Stuart Rentz
and Marion Martin.
Johnsonís strong run continued in 2000, as Furman again finished
9-3. The highlight was a 45-10 defeat of #1 Georgia Southern, the
eventual I-AA national champion. The regular season featured a five-game
win streak, and two losses by a combined margin of three points.
Johnsonís players reaped numerous honors, including Ivory, who captured
the Walter Payton Award as the top offensive player in NCAA I-AA
football after rushing for 2,079 yards. Four other Paladins were
recognized as All-Americans and Martin was awarded a prestigious
National Football Foundation/Hall of Fame Scholarship.
The Paladins dropped the 2001 season opener, 20-14, to I-A foe
Wyoming, then ran off 12 victories in 13 games before losing the
national championship to Montana. The highlight was Furmanís 24-17
victory over favored Georgia Southern in the NCAA semifinals that
snapped GSUís 39-game home winning streak.
The fact that Furman thrived under Johnson surprised few Paladin
followers. Johnsonís style and appreciation for winning football
became evident at Furman as he distinguished himself as a top assistant
coach and later as defensive coordinator. Johnson was a key factor
in virtually all the success Furman has enjoyed since 1975, including
11 conference championships and an NCAA I-AA national title.
Johnsonís professional reputation is built on years of squeezing
the most out of his playersí abilities while urging them to put
forth maximum effort on and off the field. His career has seen Johnson
serve as academic advisor and admission office liaison. Furman footballís
nationally acclaimed graduation rates and 12 academic All-American
selections during Johnsonís tenure testify to his effectiveness.
His ability to work with qualified associates is apparent by the
simple fact that his coaching staff had remained virtually intact
at Furman since his appointment in 1994.
Johnsonís coaching career, which covers 24 years, began in 1976
as defensive backs coach at Furman. In 1980, Johnson left the university
to serve as an academic counselor at Clemson but returned the following
year. In 1983, he added the responsibility of defensive coordinator
- a position he held for three years under then head coach Dick
Sheridan and seven seasons under Jimmy Satterfield. In 1993, he
accepted a similar position at his alma mater, Clemson. During his
tenure as defensive coordinator at Furman, the Paladins were 91-31-3,
claimed five Southern Conference crowns and registered eight I-AA
Top 20 final rankings.
In Furmanís 1988 national championship campaign, Johnsonís defense
led the nation in scoring defense, allowing just 9.7 points per
game. In his only season at Clemson, his strong Tiger defense helped
deliver a Peach Bowl victory, though he left the Tigers prior to
the bowl to accept the head coaching job at Furman.
A native of Columbia, S.C., Johnson starred as a football, baseball
and basketball player at Eau Claire High School. In 1968, he was
named South Carolina Lineman of the Year.
He continued his playing career at Clemson, where he lettered three
years playing at wide receiver and cornerback. Johnson led Clemson
in interceptions in 1971 and 1972, and was a two-time Atlantic Coast
Conference All-Academic selection.
He graduated from Clemson in 1973 with a bachelor of science degree
in management. In 1979, he was awarded a masterís degree in education
He is married to the former Catherine Bonner of Charleston, S.C.