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|Johnson was true Junkyard Dog|
He was one of the original Junkyard Dogs.
And you would have a hard time finding another player to live up to that moniker more than Walter Johnson.
"I love that," said Johnson, who helps coach the current edition of Junkyard Dogs at Ferriday as a volunteer coach for the Trojans. "It still gives me goose bumps."
Johnson, 47, went out for football as a ninth-grader at Ferriday in 1979.
"I was just looking for something to get me away from the house," Johnson said. "I would have to feed the chickens and hogs and all kinds of other chores."
Unfortunately, Ferriday went 2-8 in Johnson's first season as a freshman.
"We were everybody's Homecoming game," Johnson said.
But in 1980, in Jerry Baldwin's second year as head coach, the Trojans went 7-3, defeating Pineville 6-0 in their final game to share the District 3-3A title with Pineville and Tioga. But Pineville and Tioga went to playoffs by point tiebreaker.
Johnson was named first team all-district as a sophomore guard.
It was also the year the Junkyard Dog chant came to live.
"We had kids from Frogmore, Clayton and Wildsville," Johnson said. "We just had a bunch of 'junk' put together. Coach Baldwin brought in a different attitude. He made us work hard. And he had us believing what he taught us was supposed to happen. He made us a lot better. We got off the bus expecting to win. We hit hard every play the entire game. We never got a bunch of penalties or took cheap shots. We just composed our will on the other fellas."
In 1981, Ferriday dominated Sicily Island 52-6 in its opener.
Johnson played both sides of the line and also punted and kicked.
The Junkyard Dogs blanked Waterproof 36-0 in their second game, holding the Tigers to minus-26 yard rushing and 41 yards passing.
Next came a 50-12 shellacking of Davidson, which finished with minus-8 yards rushing and 42 passing.
The Trojans handled Zachary 44-26 in their fourth game.
Ferriday blitzed McCall 52-14 as the Trojan defense, led by Johnson at nose guard, held the Dragons to 25 yards rushing and 47 passing.
The Trojans opened district play with a 20-0 shutout of Caldwell, holding the Spartans to 65 total yards.
Ferriday handed Vidalia its first loss of the season the following week, defeating the Vikings 30-16.
The Trojans kept explosive Viking back Keith Woodside in check most of the night.
"We always seemed to shut Keith down," Johnson said. "I doubt he ever got more than 50 yards against us. He was a great back, one of the fastest I played against. We just made it a point to get to him early and not let him get going. They also had a real good fullback (Glen Cupit) who did a good job of blocking."
Ferriday then defeated Buckeye 36-6, holding the Panthers to 154 total yards.
Johnson scores on a blocked punt, running 40 yards to paydirt.
"Speed, strength and quickness were my strong points," said Johnson, who stood only 5-foot-11.
Following an open date, Ferriday finished the regular season unbeaten with a 50-13 win over Block, holding the Bears to 115 yards.
The Trojans beat Jonesboro-Hodge 42-11 in a first round playoff contest, holding the Tigers to -minus 19 yards rushing and 147 passing.
Nathaniel Williams scored four touchdowns in the contest.
Ferriday had to overcome a 12-6 halftime deficit to Springhill in its second round game, defeating the Lumberjacks 18-12 to advance.
Springhill threatened late in the game as they moved to the Trojan 9-yard line before Johnson hit Springhill's Lee Robinson, forcing a fumble that was recovered by Ferriday. The Trojans then made two first downs to run out the clock.
Ferriday defeated St. Louis of Lake Charles 28-7 in the quarterfinals, holding the Saints to 126 rushing yards and 26 yards through the air.
That set up a semifinal classic contest with Class 2A power John Curtis, which was also unbeaten and the two-time defending state champion, having beaten Patterson 28-0 in the 1979 state title game and Jonesboro-Hodge 21-3 in the 1980 title game.
Ferriday actually jumped out to a 16-7 first quarter lead, but the Patriots came back to lead 28-24 at halftime.
The Patriots led 36-24 after three quarters and both teams scored six points in the final quarter as the scoreboard showed a 42-30 final in a game played before a jam-packed crowd.
"I believe we should have won that game," Johnson said. "We had three touchdowns called back. But John Curtis played a clean football game. They had 80 'football players' and we had 23 all together. But we were in the best condition because we had to be in shape."
After the game, John Curtis school founder John Curtis Sr., whose son John Curtis Jr., was the head coach, told Baldwin, "You are the best we've played all year. We have played some quad-A teams and none of them matched your team."
Curtis beat E.D. Wjite 21-17 the following week for its third straight championship.
"I wasn't disappointed about not getting to the Superdome, I was just disappointed with the loss," Johnson said. "We had some great players in Bobby Ray Thompson, Nate, a real great quarterback (Melvin Demby), a good defense all around. The Curtis game was the only game I got triple-teamed. They had so many good players that the center and two guards were blocking me."
Johnson was named Outstanding Defensive Player in District 4-AA and All-State at nose guard. He averaged nine tackles and seven assists a game and collected 25 quarterback sacks, causing seven fumbles and blocking three punts.
Ferriday started out the 1982 season with a 46-0 win over Sicily Island.
Ferriday's game against Waterproof was cancelled after three Tiger football players and a female student drowned on Labor Day. Future Ferriday coach Robert Cade was the coach at Waterproof at the time.
Ferriday showed no rust in their next contest, routing Davidson 86-6 as Williams scored six touchdowns.
Ferriday defeated Zachary 36-14 the following week before crushing McCall 70-0 to improve to 4-0.
Ferriday opened district play with a 30-0 shutout of Caldwell, holding the Spartans to 68 total yards.
That set up the parish rival contest with Vidalia, whose only loss was a 36-24 thriller to South Natchez.
Ferriday's defense held Woodside to 54 yards as the Trojans rolled to a 36-6 win over the Vikings before 5,000 people at Melz Field.
"Their defense destroyed our offensive line," Vidalia coach Dee Faircloth said after the game. "We double-manned Walter Johnson to slow him down as much as we could, but when you have to use two men to try and block out one, you leave someone open -- and Jerry King stayed on us."
Ferriday remained unbeaten with a 62-0 shellacking of Buckeye, setting up one of the most anticipated games in the area as the Trojans traveled to Martin Stadium to take on North Natchez the following week.
North Natchez, the alma mater of Baldwin, gave Ferriday its first regular season loss since October 24, 1980, defeating the Trojans 17-14 in overtime.
Ferriday led 14-0 after three quarters and had an interception return for a touchdown by Emanuel Smith called back for clipping.
Ferriday's first touchdown of the game came when Williams fumbled the ball on The Ram 43 after catching a pass from Keith Henderson. Johnson scooped up the ball and ran the distance with 9:43 remaining in the opening quarter.
"I wanted to play running back, but after that run Coach Baldwin let me know I was not a running back," Johnson said. "That was a tough loss because I knew we were the better team. And it was one of the roughest games I played in. Anything went back then. That was when I twisted my ankle and it affected me the rest of the year. I was in a pile and someone grabbed my ankle and just kept twisting."
Ferriday beat Block 64-12 in its regular season finale.
After drawing a first-round bye, Ferriday beat DeQuincy 30-0 in the mud.
The Trojan defense held the Tigers to 38 total yards.
Ferriday lost to Winnfield 32-14 in Winnfield in the quarterfinals. The Trojans led 14-13 going into the final quarter.
Johnson suffered an ankle injury in the first half and sat out the entire second half. Winnfield, led by Garlon Powell and Perry Myles, scored 19 points in the final quarter.
"That was a tough way to end my high school career," Johnson said.
Johnson was named first team all-district on offense and defense and was Outstanding Defensive Player for the second straight week.
Johnson was named All-State for the second straight year after averaging 15 tackles per game for a team that allowed only 53 points during the regular season.
Despite his size, Johnson received offers from several major schools.
"It didn't bother me if people thought I was too little," Johnson said. "Everybody I played for knew that wasn't an issuer. I just knew I had to work on the other things, such as going to class, being a good person and doing what I was told. Everybody is good at that level, but it's the little things."
Johnson considered LSU and Texas A&M, but fell in love with Tech.
"It wasn't too big and they were doing the same things as everybody else," Johnson said. "And they were also truthful. They were the only ones who told me I would not be playing noseguard. Others were telling me that, but I knew I would have to be a linebacker in college."
Soon after committing, Johnson learned that Baldwin accepted an assistant coaching job at Louisiana Tech.
"If I would have known that earlier, it would have made the process a lot simpler," Johnson said. "That helped a lot because I knew what to expect from Coach Baldwin. It was not a big adjustment moving to defensive end`. I like playing defense and hunting for the ball. I was still able to use my quickness, speed and strength."
Johnson earned a starting position as a sophomore after starting out No. 18 on the depth chart.
"I knew I was better than a lot of those guys, it was just a matter of working hard," Johnson said. "It was a matter of taking care of all the other details. And I also knew Coach Baldin didn't ask, he told you."
Johnson, who was timed at 4.4 in the 40, earned Associated Press All-American honors as a sophomore linebacker.
Tech won the Southland Conference that season, losing to Montana State, 19-6, in the 1-AA national championship game.
"They had a real good tight end (Joe Bignall)," Johnson said. "I had to cover him the entire game."
The Bulldogs beat Mississippi Valley and Alcorn State in the first and second round, respectively.
"Those games were a lot of fun because I knew a lot of those guys who were from around the Miss-Lou area," Johnson said.
Tech went 8-3 in 1985.
In his junior season, Johnson, nicknamed "Quick," had 90 tackles and six sacks, including 14 tackles against Lamar and 10 against Southern Miss. He also blocked four punts and recorded a safety. He also made the stop on a two-point conversion against Southwestern Louisiana that preserved a win in the final minute.
Going into his senior year, Tech head coach A.L. Williams said of Johnson, "we have as good a football player as you will find anywhere in the person of Walter Johnson. His quickness is uncanny. He makes tackles all over the field and his pass rush is tremendous. He's the nearest thing to Fred Dean that has come through here."
Johnson was named as a permanent team captain his senior year when he was moved to linebacker.
Tech went 6-4-1. Johnson was named All-Southland Conference at his new position
Johnson, who was now 6-0, 220 pounds, had 88 tackles, 56 assists and had 14 sacks. He had five tackles for losses, caused six fumbles and recovered two.
Johnson received the President's Award at the end of the season from Dr. F. Jay Taylor and was named MVP on defense.
"Walter is the perfect example of a Tech Bulldog - an All-American every day in every way," Williams said at the end of the season.
Johnson finished with 327 tackles and 38 sacks at Tech, and blocked six punts, the most since Mike Barber in 1976.
"The biggest disappointment is that we never beat Northeast," Johnson said.
He was named Defensive Player of the Year on the All-Louisiana Team in 1986.
"I never kept up with any of that," Johnson said, "My cousin, Triand McCoy, used to call me and tell me what I made. I wasn't really worried any accolades. I was supposed to do that."
Johnson still ranks first at Tech in sacks for a season (14), career sacks (38) and is sixth in forced fumbles in a season with six in 1986 and seventh in tackles for losses in a season ('85) with 16.
"I didn't watch a lot of football, but I watched film on Fred Dean and Johnny Robinson," Johnson said. "I was most impressed by Fred Young when we played New Mexico State (1984). He was all over the place. He really made an impression on me. He went to play for the San Francisco 49ers.
Johnson was taken by the Houston Oilers in the second round in the NFL Draft in 1987, the 46th overall pick.
"It wasn't that big a deal," Johnson said. "I knew I was going to play football somewhere. Coach Baldwin called me and told me. I had never been in a city for a long length of time and didn't really want to be in a city. I'd rather be out riding a four-wheeler or fishing and hunting."
Johnson played two years with Houston. He earned the most attention after laying out New Orleans kicker Morten Andersen after Anderson kicked off against the Oilers. Johnson was ordered to hit Anderson by Houston coach Jerry Glanville.
"Coach Glanville was a crazy man who would come up with anything," Johnson said. "But he was a good coach. People liked the guy. I was just doing what I was told, just knock the heck out of him. It wasn't illegal. When I went to the Saints, I became good friends with Morten and ate at his restaurant a lot."
After a year with the Saints, Johnson signed with Indianapolis. But a shoulder injury forced him to retire, and he returned his money to the Colts.
"I never really got used to pro football," Johnson said. "It was different. There was a lot of politicking involved and a lot had to do with your contract. A lot of times I was playing behind guys I knew I was better than. But the best thing to do what keep your mouth shut. And everybody wants a piece of you. There would be mornings I would wake up and see people going through my trash can.
"I was kind of glad when it was over," Johnson said. "It was a different lifestyle. My goal was to come home and raise a family."
Johnson and his wife, Tangelia have been married for 25 years. Rosalyn, 245, is a nurse in Baton Rouge, whileChance is 10 years old.
Johnson returned home and opened a convenience store. He also bought weights for the Ferriday football team.
"The convenience store was a lot of work," he said. "It's hard working for yourself."
Johnson then went to work offshore. He also worked for the Sheriff's Office and Ferriday Police Department.
"I got to see a different side of law enforcement," Johnson said. "It's unreal what they have to deal with. People can be so horrible and say anything. My quitting had nothing to do with the police department. I just couldn't work with the general public and how they treat police. I have a lot of respect for law enforcement."
Johnson said serves as a volunteer football coach at Ferriday High.
"I love working with the kids," he said. "And I appreciate Coach (Chad) Harkins allowing me to work around my schedule. Coach Harkins is a good coach and the kids like him. He's going to get it turned back around."
Johnson doesn't consider himself a role model, but likes working with kids with tough backgrounds.
"There are a lot of kids who need help," he said. "And a lot of it is no guidance. The kids wants someone to tell them what to do and stay on them. There are a lot of moms out there doing a great job. I would like to see Ferriday have baseball and tennis and a swimming pool so you know where these kids are for at least three or four hours a day."
Johnson said he will not push Chance into playing football.
"He loves fishing, hunting and riding a four-wheeler and horses," Johnson said. "If he wants to play football, that's fine. If not, I'm not going to push him."
And you won't find Johnson walking the sidelines as a full-time coach.
"I don't want to do the teaching part," he said. "Schools are not equipped properly and teachers are overworked and underpaid. But I certainly enjoy the time I have now with these kids. I wouldn't trade it for anything."
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