Quick Take

    In an incredible performance. Phoenix Coyotes goaltender Brian Boucher allowed his first goal-against in six games on 1/11. He established the NHL’s modern era mark of five shutouts and a record 332 minutes and one second of shutout goaltending. That record is going to live for a very long time.

Story of the Week


    It wasn’t his cleats, though they provided him with a remarkable nickname. It wasn’t the end-zone dance, though that attracted national attention. It was Billy Johnson’s perseverance and production during a 14-year career that stamped him as the most distinguished punt returner in NFL history.

    A relatively small athlete from a relatively small college, Johnson was a charismatic performer for the Houston Oilers and Atlanta Falcons. He also played very briefly for the Washington Redskins. He overcame serious injuries to both knees to set career records for punt returns (282) and yardage (3,317), and he was a dangerous wide receiver as well.

    Johnson first wore white shoes as a high school quarterback, in his tribute to Joe Namath. He took the shoes along to Widener, a Pennsylvania college more renowned for Hollywood legends Cecil B. DeMille and Humphrey Bogart than for football stars. Switched to running back in college, Johnson surpassed nine NCAA records, and added the touchdown dance on one of his frequent trips to the end zone.

    The new form of expression was unleashed upon the NFL during a game at the Astrodome in 1974. Johnson, a 15th. round draft pick, scored on an end-around against the Pittsburgh Steelers and reverted to his college celebration. After that first pro exhibition of spontaneous dance, Johnson sought and received coach "Bum" Phillips’ stamp of approval to continue it. To be sure, the fans loved it, myself included; this "ain’t" the L. A. Philharmonic, man, so have fun!

    In 1975, Johnson’s routine became a regular feature when he brought back three punts and one kickoff for touchdowns, tying the four-kick NFL single-season record. He was denied sole possession of the record when a punt return for 75 yards was stopped at the one-yard line. After leading the league with a 15.3 yards punt-return average, he received the first of three Pro Bowl nominations, and was voted MVP of the game after scoring on a 90-yard punt return.

    "He was even more exciting in practice," recalled Coach Phillips. "We didn’t have anyone who could tackle him. He was so elusive."

    Surgery to Johnson’s left knee and then his right knee virtually wiped out the 1978 and 1979 seasons, and he didn’t return a single kick in 1980, prompting him to leave for the Canadian Football League. But he got a call from Atlanta, and joined the Falcons in 1982. In 1983, after leading the team with 64 receptions and returning punts for 489 yards, Johnson was honored as the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year.

    By the time he retired, the 5-9, 170-pound Billy Johnson had gained the reputation of a giant with great big white shoes to fill.

Last Week’s Trivia

    Who is the oldest player in NFL history to rush for two or more touchdowns in a game? In 2003 against Minnesota, San Diego’s Doug Flutie rushed for two TD’s and passed for yet another two TD’s. At 41 years of age, he became the oldest player----not just quarterback----in league history to rush for two scores. The guy is amazing!

Trivia Question of the Week

    He set a major league record with 24 hits in 14 post-season games one year. Those games included the LCS and the World Series. In that same year, he won MVP honors in the LCS. Who is he? See next week’s Sports Junkie for the answer.