The leading tackler in Kansas City Chiefs history retired as a member of the organization on Wednesday.
Former Texas Longhorns standout linebacker Derrick Johnson signed a one-day contract with the Chiefs to end a professional career that spanned 14 seasons:
It’s official now, the New chapter begins. I can’t thank the chiefs organization enough for rolling the red carpet out for my retirement. God has really been good to me over the years to say the least. Thanks to the Coaches, Players and Chiefs Fans for an amazing dream come true. pic.twitter.com/PqzzBQHAnS— Derrick Johnson (@superdj56) May 8, 2019
A Parade All-American out of Waco High as a member of the 2001 recruiting class, Johnson had a superlative career in burnt orange and white, earning co-Big 12 Freshman of the Year honors and finishing second on the team with 83 tackles during his first year in Austin, even though he only started two games. During that season, Johnson set the stage for his playmaking career with 13 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks.
He was even better as a sophomore, when he was a Butkus Award semifinalist and added four interceptions to his 120 tackles, along with 10 passes broken up and 10 quarterback pressures. Johnson then became the first Butkus Award finalists in school history in 2003 with 125 tackles, 20 tackles for loss, two sacks, 10 pressures, nine passes broken up, and four interceptions.
As a senior, Johnson helped the Horns win the Rose Bowl as he finally took home the Butkus Award, as well as the Nagurski Award as the nation’s best defensive player with a monster season — 130 tackles (73 solo), 19 tackles for loss, 10 pressures, eight passes broken up, nine caused fumbles (tied for No. 1 on NCAA single-season list), two sacks, and a blocked extra point. He forced a fumble once every 16 tackles that season as he perfected his vicious club move to knock footballs free from ball carriers.
Johnson’s success on the Forty Acres made him the 15th overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft by the Chiefs and he went on to play 13 seasons in Kansas City before a short stint with the Oakland Raiders that ended his playing career.
On four different occasions, Johnson made the Pro Bowl, while also earning All-Pro honors in 2011. As late as 2017, he finished second on the team in tackles and ended his career as the all-time leader in that category for the Chiefs with 1,262 tackles. Always excellent in pass coverage, he had 14 career interceptions and returned four of them for touchdowns. He didn’t stop forcing fumbles, either, with 22 in his career.
The reality is that the Texas football program may never see another better linebacker than Johnson, who ranks alongside Tommy Nobis, Britt Hager, and Kiki DeAyala as the best in school history at that position. The Chiefs organization might not, either.