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Pepper Johnson
Pepper Johnson.JPG
Pepper Johnson
Jersey #(s)
52, 99
Born July 29, 1964 (1964-07-29) (age 45)
Detroit, Michigan
Career information
Year(s) 19861998
NFL Draft 1986 / Round: 2 / Pick: 51
College Ohio State
Professional teams

As Player

As Coach

Assistant Linebackers Coach (2000)
Inside Linebackers Coach (2001-2003)
Defensive Line Coach (2004-present)
Career stats
Sacks 25.5
Interceptions 14
Defensive Touchdowns 2
Stats at
Career highlights and awards

Thomas "Pepper" Johnson (born July 29, 1964 in Detroit, Michigan) is a former college and professional American football linebacker, and the current defensive line coach for the New England Patriots of the National Football League.


Playing career



Upon graduation from Detroit's Mackenzie High School, Johnson played college football for the Ohio State University Buckeyes under head coach Earle Bruce. Johnson lettered every year from 1982 to 1985, and led the team in tackles in 1984 and 1985. He was a team co-captain in 1984 and 1985, and in 1985 was named as an All American. Johnson ended his college career with 379 total tackles. He was inducted into the Ohio State Varsity O Hall of Fame in 2001.


Johnson was drafted by the New York Giants in the second round of the 1986 NFL Draft. With the Giants, he was a member of both the Super Bowl XXI and Super Bowl XXV-winning teams, under head coach Bill Parcells and assistant Bill Belichick. After seven seasons in New York, Johnson re-joined Belichick with the Cleveland Browns in 1993, Belichick's third season as the team's head coach. After the 1995 season, the Browns moved to Baltimore, Maryland, and neither Belichick nor Johnson followed the team there. Johnson instead joined the Detroit Lions, whom he spent one season with in 1996. For what would become the final two seasons of his career, Johnson again re-joined Belichick, who was now serving as the defensive coordinator for the New York Jets under Parcells. After the 1998 season, Johnson retired from the NFL with career totals of 25.5 sacks, 12 forced fumbles, 14 interceptions, and over 1,200 tackles.

Coaching career

Johnson began his coaching career as an assistant linebackers coach with the Patriots during the 2000 season.[1] Johnson then served as the Patriots' inside linebackers coach from 2001 through 2003, before moving to defensive line coach in 2004.


Johnson's nickname of "Pepper" originated from his aunt who noticed Johnson liked to put black pepper on his breakfast cereal.[1] Pepper's son, Dionte Johnson (born June 28, 1986) is a former fullback for the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Arizona Cardinals. Dionte was elected as a captain of the Ohio State team in 2007, making Pepper and Dionte only the third father-son captains (after Jim and Kirk Herbstreit and James and Jeff Davidson) in Buckeye history.

Notes and references

  1. ^ a b Pepper Johnson Biography Accessed 30 June 2007.


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