In January 1987, Bobby Johnson helped the New York Giants to a 39-20 win over the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXI. It was one of the happiest days of his football career.
It was also his last. Johnson was traded to the Chargers that offseason and subsequently cut. He never played in the NFL again.
“I have nothing to be ashamed of,” Johnson said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “If anybody can go out winning a Super Bowl, that’s the best way to go out. Unfortunately, other personal problems caused my career to end short. But I can’t change it and I wouldn’t change it.”
Johnson battled drug abuse during and after his playing career.
“I’m 14 years clean,” Johnson said. “Fourteen years clean. I just need to say this: I wish they would have had programs back then. I loved the game. I knew (the end) was going to come. If you’re addicted, you want to stop, but it’s an addiction, a disease. I thought I was stronger than the drug, but I wasn’t. Not even close. I knew when I went out (to San Diego), I was going to get cut. I wasn’t going to get a second chance. There was a reason why I went from one coach to the other.”
Johnson, 54, got clean after he was arrested.
“That woke me up,” he said. “It was five days after my birthday.”
Getting clean – and staying clean – remains a strong source of pride for Johnson.
“I feel if I can beat that, I can overcome anything,” he said. “It’s not easy, I promise you. Once you’re addicted, you’re addicted for life basically. It’s just you have to make the right decisions daily.”
Johnson’s relationship with the Giants was a little rocky for a while, but everything is fine now.
“We had that reunion in 2011, and I think that opened the door to a lot of things,” he said. “Everybody was happy to see me there, everybody was worried about me – I was like the little brother of the team, I guess. But everybody was worried about me. Didn’t nobody know what to do back then. I think they knew that I was addicted to something, but nobody knew how to react. They all would’ve helped me, I promise you. To this day, we talk and they make sure I’m doing the right things, which I am. Nobody knew how to react back then. But like I said, when we met in 2011 – I’ve seen a few of them since then, too – but it was like nothing ever happened. We’re all close, and they’re glad to see me clean.”