James William (Jimmy) Johnson (1943–)

James William (Jimmy) Johnson was a defensive end for the University of Arkansas (UA) Razorback football team and served as the head coach for Oklahoma State University and the University of Miami before going on to become head coach for the Dallas Cowboys and Miami Dolphins.

Jimmy Johnson was born on July 16, 1943, in Port Arthur, Texas. He graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School, now known as Memorial High School, in 1961. A defensive end on the high school football team, Johnson continued in that position at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville (Washington County). An All-Southwest Conference player, he belonged to the 1964 team recognized by the Football Writers Association as the national champion.

After graduating from UA in 1965, Johnson embarked on a football coaching career. That year, he began a series of one-year stints as assistant coach at Louisiana Tech University, Picayune Memorial High School, and Wichita State University. After a two-year stretch as an assistant coach at Iowa State University beginning in 1968, Johnson became the defensive line coach at the University of Oklahoma in 1970.

In 1973, Johnson became the defensive coordinator at UA. In 1975, the Razorbacks won ten and lost two games and defeated the University of Georgia 31–10 in the Cotton Bowl. With the firing of Arkansas head coach Lou Holtz after the 1983 season, Johnson was interviewed for the position, but the university selected Ken Hatfield instead. In 1977, Johnson left UA to become the assistant head coach and defensive coordinator at the University of Pittsburgh.

After fourteen years in subordinate positions, Johnson became the head coach at Oklahoma State University in 1979. After the 1983 season, he left Oklahoma State to become the head coach at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida. Undefeated in twelve games in 1987, Miami defeated Oklahoma 20–14 in the Orange Bowl and claimed the national championship.

In 1989, Arkansas oil and gas executive Jerry Jones purchased the Dallas Cowboys of the National Football League (NFL). Jones, who had played football with Johnson at UA, hired his former teammate as the head coach of the Cowboys, replacing Tom Landry, who had coached the team since its inception in 1960. In 1992, Johnson led the Cowboys to a 13–3 record in the regular season, going on to win the Super Bowl. The next year, Dallas won twelve of sixteen regular-season games and again won the Super Bowl. After a two-year retirement from coaching, Johnson became the head coach of the Miami Dolphins in 1996.

After retiring from coaching in 2000, Johnson became an analyst for FOX Sports, appearing on FOX NFL Sunday. He appeared in several television shows and films, including Survivor: Nicaragua in 2010. Married to Rhonda Rookmaaker since 1999, Johnson has two sons from a previous marriage. Inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2012, he was also inducted into the University of Arkansas Hall of Fame, University of Miami Hall of Fame, Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, Florida Sports Hall of Fame, and Texas Sports Hall of Fame. In 2021, he was inducted into the National Football Hall of Fame.

For additional information:
“Jimmy Johnson.” College Football Hall of Fame Biography. National Football Foundation. https://footballfoundation.org/hof_search.aspx?hof=2319 (accessed September 14, 2021).

“Jimmy Johnson.” Sports-Reference.com. http://www.sports-reference.com/cfb/coaches/jimmy-johnson-2.html (accessed September 14, 2021).

“Jimmy Johnson.” Pro-Football-Reference.com. http://www.pro-football-reference.com/coaches/JohnJi0.htm (accessed September 14, 2021).

Johnson, Jimmy, and Ed Hinton. Turning the Thing Around. New York: Hyperion Books, 1993.

Adam R. Hornbuckle
Spring Hill, Tennessee


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