Atlanta Falcons: 30 greatest players in franchise history
- NFL 75th Anniversary Team
- NFL All-Decade Team (1980s w/Falcons)
- 1983 NFL Comeback Player of the Year
- 1x Pro Bowl w/Falcons (1983), First-Team All-Pro (1983)
Though it isn’t as awesome as his iconic nickname, Billy “White Shoes” Johnson is The Godfather of NFL Touchdown Dances. Without Johnson’s one-of-a-kind Funky Chicken dance, we don’t get to experience Popcorn T.O., “Please Don’t Fine Me” Ochocinco and every single Antonio Brown twerk. Yes, Johnson’s end zone dance moves were that culturally important to the NFL.
Johnson was small in stature at 5-foot-9, 170 pounds. Despite blazing speed in the return game, his slight frame kept him from playing at a big school in college. The then Houston Oilers took a chance on him in the 15th round in the 1974 NFL Draft out of Division III Widener College in Pennsylvania.
Johnson would prove to be a big hit in Houston during the Bum Phillips Luv Ya Blue era of Oilers football. Of course, it helped having a beast of a running back in the form of future Pro Football Hall of Famer Era Campbell to pound the rock…but Funky Chicken dances!
After spending 1981 in the CFL playing for the Montreal Alouettes, Johnson would bring his white end zone dancing shoes back to the States to suit up for the Falcons in 1982. He would spend the next six seasons with Atlanta where he would continue his brilliance in the return game and excel in the receiving game.
His signature play as a member of the Falcons came on something known as Big Ben II. This was a play on the famous 1978 Hail Mary by quarterback Steve Bartkowski to beat the division rival New Orleans Saints, know as Big Ben Right.
Five years later, Bartkowski would orchestrate anther miraculous play to beat another division rival. This time, he found Johnson near the goal line to beat the Bill Walsh San Francisco 49ers at home in Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium in 1983. That was a very special year for Johnson, arguably his greatest as a Falcon.
Johnson won NFL Comeback Player of the Year in 1983, as he accumulated 1,281 all-purpose yards and found pay dirt five times. In short, Johnson was a southern football phenomenon in the 1970s and 1980s. He made both NFL All-Decade Teams and remains the only player from the 75th Anniversary team that has not achieved Canton enshrinement.
Johnson may never garner pro football’s highest honor, but we can look back on how much fun Johnson had while playing the game. He inspired guys Terrell Owens, Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson and Deion Sanders to just kind of do their thing when it comes to enjoying touchdowns. Celebrate good times!