Today's New York Times has a long story on former Michigan and NFL running back, Ron Johnson, who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's. See http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/19/sports/football/ex-giants-case-is-a-window-on-nfl-aid.html?_r=1&ref=sports . Johnson is receiving aid from the NFL. For those of you whose knowledge of Michgan football starts with Bo, Johnson is one of the greatest running backs in Michigan history and was the star of the 1968 team that went 8-2 just before Bo arrived. He, not Tim Biakabutaka, holds the record for most yards in a game -- 347. And, in that game, Johnson only played one play in the fourth quarter -- his fifth touchdown run of the game. That's only one of many records he still holds. Johnson is one of the 10 greatest running backs to play for the Wolverines, notwithstanding Angeligue C's list before the start of the season.
Former UM Star Ron Johnson has Alzheimers
Very sad, but thank you for posting this.
Prayers go out to Ron Johnson and his family. That's a tough disease but Johnson is a tough fellow and I just hope he has the personal support system he needs to cope and deal. Go Blue!!!
Prayers to Johnson and his family. Alzheimer's is rough on the family
What a sad, yet enlightening story about Alzheimers and the care facilities that these former players reside in.
Here's a thought...The next time we feel the inkling to bitch and moan about the performance of an 18-22 year old student-athlete, let's understand that ALL of us have so much to be grateful for.
I agree -- Ron Johnson is 100% a top 10 RB at UM. Once I saw that Angelique did not have TWheatley #1, I knew the list was a joke. Johnson's single game record is one of the oldest on the books, and I wonder if it will ever be broke.
While I had some disagreements with that list, I don't know that you can call anyone the clear-cut #1 back of all time here. Wheatley was fantastic, but was he definitely better than Woolfolk, Lytle, Johnson, Biakabutuka, et al.? I don't know.
Too hard to pick one guy. My Top-5 would be A-Train, Harmon, Johnson. Biakabutuka and Morris. You could make a great case for each one.
My thoughts go out to him and his family. As someone who as dealt with alzheimers with a direct family member, I can tell you it is one of the worst things in existence, pure evil. The best way to describe it is that it destroys a person's soul bit by bit, and there's nothing you can do about it.
Ron is at least partially responsible for my life long passion for Michigan Football. That Wisconsin game was the first Michigan game I saw live.
As ChalmersE stated, RJ owns the Michigan record for most yards rushing in a game. He also owns the number 4 spot just ahead of some Robinson fellow.
It was a really ugly day, weather-wise. One of the handful of most brutal weather days I've ever seen at Michigan Stadium, because it rained pretty much all day, except when it wasn't freezing rain or sleet or snow. All of which fell, sideways, at various times.
I still have my copy of the game program from that day, which featured none other than Ron Johnson on the cover:
The only mark on my copy is my own pre-teen handwriting noting that Johnson rushed for 347 yards, a new Michigan record. As if I would need to remember that stat.
Ron Johnson, more than any other running back in my memory at Michigan, was a wonderfully polished and smart runner. I don't think I ever saw anybody use blockers the way that Ron Johnson did. One of the most beautiful, stylish technique players we ever put on the football field.
Incidentally, in the NYT article by William C. Rhoden, I did not see any mention of Ron's older brother, Alex Johnson, who played major league baseball and who won an American League batting title in the course of a mutli-team career. Anybody know how Alex is doing?
put this in the original post, but this story hit particularly close to home. That fact was emphasized when my sister responded to an e-mail forwarding the Times story by noting she was sitting with my Mother on the dementia floor of a New York nursing home. Sigh.
RJ* has the 4th most rushes in a single game: 42
He has the 11th most single season yards, but he played in 10 game seasons.
He's 15th in total yardage, but once again remember he played in 10 game seasons and before Freshman were elgible. He also didn't play much until his Junior season.
In addition to having the top single game yardage performance, he also has the 4th best.
He's tied for fourth in the number of touchdowns in a single season. The rushers ahead of and tied with him, all played for Fielding Yost.
His 5 TDs against Wisconsin in 1968 were the most in a game by any Michigan back who wasn't coached by Yost.
* He was often referred to as RJ by Michigan fans at the time, probably because he played at the same time as OJ. BTW, he finished 5th in the Heisman voting the year Simpson won.
Living in New York as a youth I became a fan of Michigan football watching the 1969 m-osu game. I then became a huge Ron Johnson fan when he ran for 1,000 yards, but did not put him and michigan together for a few years after. They didn't highlight the colleges people came from the way do now. We didn't have as many games on and blackouts were still the rage. However, this coincidence certainly didn't hurt my eventual matriculation to michigan.
As much fun as Craig James is, this is what really matters.
What terrible news. Alzheimer's is such a cruel disease. Ron Johnson was a wonderful running back but he also has another distinction: he was the first black Michigan player to be named team Captain.
What a strong,balance runner RJ was. Stay strong Ron!
Prayers go out to him and his family. Ron Johnson should be the next Michigan Football Legend. One of THE all-time greats. I wish somehow he could have stayed one more year, and got revenge against ohio when Bo came.
Ron Johnson should be the next Michigan Football Legend.
That's a truly great idea. It could possibly serve a dual purpose; having Bump Elliott return to Michigan Stadium. One of Brandon's earliest ideas as AD was to bring back Bump for a tribute. Bump's been unable to due to his wife's declining health. But no matter what, there's no more deserving tribute than the one Michigan owes to Ron Johnson. There have been a couple of occasions when Ron's been announced on the field; anniversaries of 1968 if memory serves me.
I wonder if this is grounds to email DB about.
The chance to have Bump Elliott back would just add to the event.
By sheer coincidence, my daughter was born on the same date the '68 Wisconsin game was played, so I recall it every year. By less coincidence, she grew up watching "The Bo Show" (Michigan Replay) with me from an early age. I doubt that had anything to do for her love for Michigan Football, of course, or her Michigan Engineering degree.