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Billy Johnson
No. 81, 84, 88     
Wide receiver, Return specialist
Personal information
Date of birth: January 27, 1952 (1952-01-27) (age 58)
Place of birth: Boothwyn, Pennsylvania
High School: Chichester High School
Height: 5 ft 9 in (1.75 m) Weight: 170 lb (77 kg)
Career information
College: Widener
NFL Draft: 1974 / Round: 15 / Pick: 365
Debuted in 1974 for the Houston Oilers
Last played in 1988 for the Washington Redskins
Career history
 As player:
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics as of 1988
Punt Return Yards     3,317
Kickoff Return Yards     2,941
Return TDs     8
Receptions     337
Receiving yards     4,211
Receiving TDs     25
Stats at
College Football Hall of Fame

William "Billy" Arthur Johnson, aka "White Shoes" (born January 27, 1952 in Boothwyn, Pennsylvania), is a former American football player in the National Football League from 1974 through 1988. He is widely famous for his elaborate celebrations in the end zone.


Early life

Johnson earned his famous nickname as a high schooler at Chichester High School in Boothwyn, Pennsylvania, where he was painting a fence with white paint and spilled some of the paint on his new shoes.[citation needed] Ever since then, he has been referred to by his nickname. He was a very fast athlete, but his 5'9" size turned off prominent universities from recruiting him. Billy ended up going to Widener College in Pennsylvania, a small Division III school, where he was a member of Alpha Sigma Phi Fraternity. While there, he had a highly successful career, but was barely noticed by professional scouts. He was eventually discovered by the Houston Oilers, who drafted him in the fifteenth round of the 1974 NFL Draft.

Professional career

Houston Oilers

Johnson made the squad as a kickoff returner, with his speed and quickness becoming an occasional part of the offense. As a rookie, he began celebrating touchdowns with a dance known as the "Funky Chicken", a dance based on a song from soul singer Rufus Thomas. It was one of the first touchdown celebrations in league history. The dance, along with his footwear, made Johnson popular among Oilers fans.

As a kick returner, Johnson returned five punts for touchdowns, along with two kickoffs, in his first four years with the Oilers, and added 12 more touchdowns on offense. He was selected to the Pro Bowl as a kick returner in 1975, and was named MVP of the game, during which he returned a punt 90 yards for a touchdown. He made another Pro Bowl appearance in 1977. In 1978, he suffered a knee injury that caused him to miss most of the next two seasons and lingered with him for the rest of his career. When he returned in 1980, he was no longer the kick returner, serving only as a backup wide receiver.

CFL and the Atlanta Falcons

A year in the Canadian Football League with the Montreal Alouettes followed in 1981, [1] after which he resurfaced with the Atlanta Falcons in 1982. In 1983, he doubled as a full-time kick returner, where he scored his sixth career touchdown on a punt return, and starting wide receiver, leading the team in receptions. Johnson earned his third Pro Bowl berth that season. He missed most of 1984 due to injury, and was benched as a return man in 1985. However, he did lead the Falcons in receptions and receiving yards that season. Another injury in 1986 was the beginning of the end for Johnson, and he retired after the 1987 season, although he briefly unretired to play one game for the Washington Redskins in 1988.


In 1994, Johnson was selected as the punt returner on the NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team.[2] His days at Widener have also earned him a selection into the College Football Hall of Fame.


  1. ^ Weird Facts about Canadian Football, p.72, Overtime Books, First Printing 2009, ISBN 978-1-897277-26-3
  2. ^ NFL 2001 Record and Fact Book, Workman Publishing Co, New York,NY, ISBN 0-7611-2480-2, p.401

External links

Preceded by
Lyle Alzado
NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award
Succeeded by
John Stallworth

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