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Johnson scores again
When it came to selecting a kicker for the Seahawks’ 35th Anniversary team, Norm Johnson was the one because he remains No. 1.
|Blue and Green Dream Team|
The Seahawks’ 35th Anniversary team, as selected by the readers of Seahawks.com:
In the minds of the fans, who voted for the team; but also in the record book. Johnson last kicked for the Seahawks in 1990. But the numbers he put up during his nine-season stay in Seattle tell the story of how he was able to not only endure but dominate at a spot where there was a very popular kicker before him (Efren Herrera) and several quality kickers after him (John Kasay, Todd Peterson, Josh Brown and Olindo Mare).
Johnson compiled 1,598 votes, more than twice as many as Brown (739), the runner-up who finished well ahead of Mare (201), Herrera (163), Kasay (87) and Peterson (42). In fact, Johnson received more votes than the other five kickers on the ballot combined.
“That’s totally cool. I’m excited,” Johnson said when informed he was indeed the choice. “It’s just surprising that people remember me.”
This takes us back to those other numbers – the hard-to-forget statistics that made Johnson such an easy, and overwhelming, choice. He ranks No. 1 in franchise history in points scored (810), field goals made (159) and attempted (228), PATs made (333) and attempted (338) and seasons with the team for a kicker (nine).
And, he was at his best in one of the best seasons in club history – 1984, when he was voted to the Pro Bowl after scoring 110 points, including a career-long 54-yard field goal, on a team that finished 12-4.
But Johnson making the team in 1982 as a rookie free agent out of UCLA meant that Herrera – one of the most popular players in franchise history – had to go. It wasn’t a popular choice at the time.
“My wife, her favorite kicker was Efren,” said Johnson, whose wife is from the Seattle area and who also had “roots” here long before signing with the Seahawks because his mother had grown up in Ballard.
“My wife’s family had season tickets since ’76 – from Day One. She remembers telling her family that she would never support ‘this new kicker’ because Efren was her favorite.”
Despite giving her preferred kicker the boot, Lori and Norm got married in 1986 and have three sons – Jordan, 22; Jarrett, 20; and Jameson, 14. They live in Kitsap County and Johnson is involved with Green Product Line, which features a technically advanced assortment of all-natural products; and helping set up businesses on the Internet.
What won Lori over? An errant shot at the Lenny Wilkins celebrity golf tournament. Norm was a “celebrity.” Lori was a volunteer on the ninth hole.
“I ended up having such a bad shot off the tee that she said, ‘I’ve been saving this for somebody. Here’s a consolation golf ball. You’ve earned it for such a bad shot,’ ” Johnson said, laughing while retelling the story of how he met his Herrera-loving wife.
“Then, one thing led to another.”
After his stay with the Seahawks, Johnson kicked for nine more seasons with three other teams – the Atlanta Falcons (1991-94), Pittsburgh Steelers (1995-98) and Philadelphia Eagles (1999). He went to his second Pro Bowl after the ’93 season, when he made 26 of 27 field goal attempts while scoring 112 points. He probably should have gone again in ’95, when he scored a career-high 141 points for the AFC Champion Steelers.
Before he finally called it a career, Johnson had scored 1,736 points, which ranks ninth all-time in the NFL.
“It’s all kind of a shock looking back at it,” Johnson said. “I never expected to kick in the league as long as I did. I think of it as quite an accomplishment.”
Even if he did get a harsh reminder of just long he had been kicking in the NFL after he joined the Falcons – midway through what was to become an 18-season career.
“When I got to Atlanta, one of our offensive linemen was married to a girl from Seattle,” Johnson said. “He tells me that his wife is really excited about meeting me, because I was her favorite player when she was in elementary school. And here I am, playing with her husband. I just thought, ‘Oh, my goodness.’
“It was kind of funny. That’s how I knew I was getting old.”
Johnson also has memories of his nine-season stay with the Seahawks.
No. 1 on a long list of team-oriented highlights was the playoff victory over the heavily favored Dolphins in Miami after the 1983 season to advance to the AFC Championship game. That remains the only time the Seahawks have won a road playoff game.
“Talk about an emotional rollercoaster in a big game,” Johnson said of the Seahawks leading three times and then trailing until they scored a touchdown in the fourth quarter. “That win was obviously groundbreaking for the Seahawks. That was exciting, exciting stuff.”
As for his individual accomplishments, there was the Seahawks’ big win over the Kansas City Chiefs in 1983 when Johnson kicked a 42-yard field goal with two seconds left to tie the score and then another 42-yarder in overtime to win it, 51-48.
“It was a crucial game for us, so that was big,” he said.
And, he’s also remembered.
“Norm was the first kicker that I thought was normal,” said Paul Moyer, who played (1983-89) and coached (1991-94) for the Seahawks and also finished fourth in the 35th Anniversary team balloting at strong safety.
“I thought, ‘You could actually hang out with this guy.’ But Norm just had an incredible amount of talent.”
The most lasting memory of Johnson, however, was his consistency. From his first kick to his last, there was that textbook form: Body leaning slightly forward as he awaited the snap; the purity in the pattern of steps on his approach; the smooth leg swing; the flawless follow-through.
“That’s an accurate observation, or at least that would be my goal,” he said. “I learned early on to pretty much do everything the same, at least on the field. People always say, ‘Oh, are you superstitious?’ And I say, ‘No. I’m almost anti-superstitious.’ Before a game, I’ll do everything different, so I can say I’m not superstitious.
“But when it comes to stepping on that field, you’ve got to do everything exactly the same. In pre-game (warm-ups). In practice. In game situations. When you don’t and you deviate, that’s going to lead to inconsistencies.”
Johnson learned that invaluable trick of his trade at an early age from Ben Agajanian, who was the Dallas Cowboys’ kicking coach for 20 years after kicking in the NFL and AFL for eight teams from 1945-64. Johnson went to Agajanian’s kicking camp while at Pacifica High School in Garden Grove, Calif., and then was a counselor at it while attending UCLA.
“Ben taught me things very early that served me well my entire career,” Johnson said. “So, if I’m doing everything right, then I look exactly the same on every kick, and every approach and everything that I do once I’m on that field.”
Even after all those kicks.