From His Mother-In-Law’s Basement

April 16th, 2015
george johnson

New Bucs defensive end George Johnson

There are great rise-from-the-ashes stories in the NFL, and many through Bucs history.

Earnest Graham comes to mind. The Florida Gators great, undrafted with a wife and child and clinging to his NFL dream, fought off homelessness in Tampa while he battled for a roster spot.

Now there’s a new guy in town with a good story: George Johnson.

In 2013, the Bucs’ new defensive end was a three-years-and-no-sacks pass rusher — out of football and on holed up in his mother-in-law’s basement with a wife and offspring.

Mike Garafolo, of, penned an excellent feature on Johnson’s journey to Lovie Smith. Here’s an excerpt:

The beginning was last March [2014], when Johnson had been out of the NFL for over five months and was hearing absolutely nothing from any teams. He was disappointed and defeated. He thought his wife, Rebecca, was going to leave him. That wasn’t true, nor was it accurate he had no future in the NFL. But that’s how the former undrafted free agent from Rutgers felt.

Needing money, the family sold everything but their clothes and a bed they would take to Johnson’s mother-in-law’s house. They set up the bed in the basement. That’s where they would live.

“That really got to me. I couldn’t provide the way a man could,” he said. “I was beating myself up. I felt worthless.”

So Johnson, then 26 years old, called Levy and told him he was ready to retire. He had a few job leads — a bouncer at a night club or a telemarketer — and he had to pay the bills somehow.

After six sacks for Detroit in a rotational role last season, Johnson, 27, will earn a guaranteed $2.75 million from Tampa Bay this year.

Joe sure hopes Johnson stays hungry after getting all that cash. He’s already a significant upgrade from ghostly Michael Johnson, and he could be a lot more.

36 Responses to “From His Mother-In-Law’s Basement”

  1. Joseph Mamma Says:

    From his mother-in-law’s basement to the basement of the NFC South I guess.

  2. OB Says:

    Lets see, we now have two DE that played a part of a year with at least 6 sacks each and we put them with GMC and McD and what do we have? Hopefully a DL that makes the QBs walk the plank.

  3. robert 9 Says:

    nice piece. wish the guy well. makes me feel better knowing the guy is motivated.

  4. Ryan Says:

    @joseph mamma

    Different way of looking at it: we have acquired a man experienced in getting out of basements.

    I dislike the unnecessary surrendering of a 5th round pick however I’m thrilled to have this man a part of our team.

  5. robert 9 Says:

    football, business…whatever.

    it’s always good to get a guy who’s young, married, maybe has kids……someone stable and motivated.

  6. passthebuc Says:

    Had a lot of respect for Graham. Hope this gentleman makes a home here and not in the basement

  7. Nole on Sat.-Bucc on Sun. Says:

    So let me get this, you and what seems like a number of other folks are unhappy they gave up the second of two fifth round picks. I pose this question,do you believe that any DE that may be available in the fifth round of this year’s draft would be able to come in and provide the type of production he provided the lions last season? Me personally I think not. It appears to me that no matter what this organizations management does some here are just born to complain about it.

  8. Scotty in Fat Antonio Says:

    What is it with this team and “BASEMENTS”?

  9. Nole on Sat.-Bucc on Sun. Says:

    Trust me Scotty once WINSton joins the crew of this ship it will be a long time before that term will be associated with the Buccaneers again. I assure you.

  10. WalkdaPlank Says:

    Now he’s in Lovie Smith’s basement, and we all know how scary a place like that must look. No offense to Johnson, he did everything asked of him as a rotational player in Detroit. But he’s not a starter, even though he likely will be on the Bucs.

    Anthony Collins comes to mind.

  11. bucrightoff Says:

    Nole, you are missing the point, as is everyone desperate to defend pure incompetence, is the Bucs didn’t have to give up anything. They could have signed Johnson with a correct, legal contract and gotten him for free. They still have Johnson and pick 168, instead now they have Johnson and pick 231. It’s simply poor management to do that, they got cute trying to save money (which is absurd considering they have $30 million in cap space still).

    And the Lions were not matching. If they even slightly wanted him they could have tendered him for compensation, but they didn’t. That they turned this into a 63 spot jump in the draft is very strong by them. To put it another way, if we did the same and moved up 63 spots in the draft for a player we weren’t going to keep and weren’t going to (initially) get anything for, we’d be fawning over such a move and mocking who we stole those spots from. Instead because it happened to the Bucs, people think it’s fine and nothing wrong.

    Being a homer doesn’t make you a better fan, it makes you a homer. Objectively analyzing the move, you can’t say it’s anything other than poor management. Keep spinning it all you want with “Well the 5th wouldn’t turn into anything” (FYI, Richard Sherman…5th round pick), but that’s just poor logic. You’re saying it’s better to pick at 231 than 168? Alrighty then, enjoy your Kool-Aid.

  12. TheShaz Says:

    For starters……welcome back to Florida. No basements here, you dig 4 feet you hit the water table or a sinkhole.

    Touching story ** sniff ** sniff ** I just have one question.

    Can this guy apply pressure to the opposing quarterbacks?

  13. P'cola Buc Says:

    Bucs traded their own 2015 5th round pick for Kevin Pamphile last year. They had 2 lower round picks this year (26) from the Ravens (for Zuttah) and (32) from the Patriots ( for Casillas and a Bucs six rounder). Lions get pick #32.

  14. pick6 Says:

    2 notable guys that took that route that were pretty capable players for us – Earnest Graham stayed humble and contributed until his body couldn’t keep up. Greg White did pretty good in his own right, but eventually he was more interested in being Stylez G White than competing to be a starting caliber DE

  15. ATrain Says:

    I hope this guy is as Classy as Graham.. HE was a great Buc

  16. Nole on Sat.-Bucc on Sun. Says:

    Bucrighoff blah blah blah,they wanted this guy and did what ever to make it happen. Find a choir to preach to homie.

  17. tmaxcon Says:

    bucrightoff is exactly right. these are the little mistakes that good teams and good personnel men do not make however this are the types of mistakes Lovie makes consistently. All the little details that people want to kill players on well it applies to gm/head coaches which in this case is Lovie. You can’t hold the players accountable for their mistakes yet give free passes to the coach/personnel man because he is a nice guy. absolutely ridiculous. Johnson was a ghost the last 10 games of the season for detriot. i believe he had 4 of his sacks in the first 5 or 7 games then 1 or 2 the next 8 to 10 games how is that consistent or even an upgrade. just like the rest of the free agent moves they are not paying for consistent production they are praying people get it, stay healthy or find the fountain of youth. pointing out the obvious is not hating… it works both ways you can’t demand full control without taking full responsibility.

  18. Nole on Sat.-Bucc on Sun. Says:

    They could’ve taken two D ends with those fifth rounders,both could have amounted to nothing you would complain. Both could become hall of famers. You would still complain. I think forward,and trust the decision making of the people that actually get paid to make the teams decisions… And what with so many out you and these child references? Might it be you’re a child posing as a grown man on here? Curious face.

  19. The Other Side of the Coin Says:

    If the it were draft day and the Bucs traded their 5th for the Lions 7th and Johnson everyone would be cheering their heads off. Keep it in perspective.

  20. Architek Says:

    You guys really don’t know what you don’t know…

    You don’t know what language or clauses were in the contract so stop being ignorant fans.

    People just need something to complain about. Geez

  21. Bucfan4life Says:

    @ Bucrightoff – very good post. If fans really know what happened here they would realize that the trade went down because the Bucs tried to get cute with the contract. The Lions were extremely smart about it and contested it, not so that they could sign him, but rather negotiate for some compensation for a player they were going to lose anyway. It may be a late 5th rounder that the Bucs had acquired via a trade but man Licht is really starting to scare me. The Bucs are getting fleeced with very move and this one was shear incompetence. There was no need to lose this pick.

    We may need to worry about some crazy trade on April 30th. Maybe something like the Bucs trading with the Charger giving up the number one overall pick and our 2nd rounder as well for P Rivers. Nothing will surprise me at this point.

  22. tmaxcon Says:

    the positive is Johnson get’s all his sacks the first half of the season and J Smith got his sacks in the second half of the season so there is some hope between the two of them the bucs can get a full year production from that position. Smith has a valid excuse by not playing the first half but Johnson’s consistency is a concern.

  23. Nole on Sat.-Bucc on Sun. Says:

    This team needs one guy to be out right special on this D line. G.McCoy. I mention on another article lastnight,the 99 15 and 1 had one bad ass John Randall. That defense was mainly dominant because of his play in the middle alone.

  24. drdneast Says:

    Some people look for the bad in everything like Walkdaplank, Robert 9, Tmaxcon and DallasBuc.
    I see no similarity in Johnson and Collins. Cite why you think they are they the same Walkdaplank if you are going to make a charge Walkdaplank.
    I always like Ernet Graham and felt he was under utilized here. Imagine if the team had been content with Graham and instead of drafting Cadillac Williams had taken Aaron Rogers instead.
    This is what happens when you think you are drafting for need rather than the best player on the board.

  25. tmaxcon Says:

    Nole on Sat.-Bucc on Sun.

    I agree with you but what is it going to take for McCoy to have that special year. He plays his arse off when not hurt. He is a beast no doubt, top five dt in league no question. what is going to take to reach that game changing / closer level that sapp randal some of the other legends had. not trying to bash mccoy trying to figure out how you think they are going to get to the next level on that line without a dominant end.

    One of my problems is the bucs not taking advantage of LVD’s strengths more and forcing him to be rigid system guy I think that is a mistake. Indirectly free up the linebackers a bit would help the line as well. Players win games not systems.

  26. Nole on Sat.-Bucc on Sun. Says:

    @The other side of the coin-so true what you just stated.

  27. WalkdaPlank Says:


    You’ll see that from fans of a team that has sucked for the past decade. JBF is a nice place to vent.

    See no similarity in Johnson or Collins? You don’t? Picking up somebody with little to no starting experience and putting them at the top of the depth chart? Cause right now, Johnson and Smith are the best DE’s on the team.

    The Bucs got a fantastic rotational player, there’s your positive. Problem is, he likely won’t be used as one.

  28. Nole on Sat.-Bucc on Sun. Says:

    I can’t argue with none of that tmaxcon.

  29. robert 9 Says:

    even when i am positive drdneast has reading comprehension issues.

    guess we know who the whiner really is. lol

  30. Brandon Says:

    I always liked George Johnson and rooted for him. He was touted by Rutgers fans as an athletic freak but he never really showed it in the NFL, though he did produce for us one preseason. I think he can be a solid rotational player for us but asking for more might be a bit much…perhaps he CAN be the answer at LDE while Smith goes to RDE? Johnson is not totally unlike former Buc Greg Spires, maybe Johnson can be the Crane 2.0 while Smith wreaks havoc from the RDE spot…. I know, it’s wishful thinking time… kind of like last season when I envisioned McCown being Gannon 2.0.

  31. port richey george Says:

    another guy named Johnson on the d-line….
    I hope this guy is better than the ghost….of buccaneers past.

  32. Celly Says:

    bucrightoff Says:
    April 16th, 2015 at 9:04 am

    Nole, you are missing the point, as is everyone desperate to defend pure incompetence, is the Bucs didn’t have to give up anything. They could have signed Johnson with a correct, legal contract and gotten him for free. They still have Johnson and pick 168, instead now they have Johnson and pick 231. It’s simply poor management to do that, they got cute trying to save money (which is absurd considering they have $30 million in cap space still).

    But had they offered him more money, you would’ve just come on here and complained that they overpaid to get a guy that isn’t “proven”.

    To say otherwise would be a farse.

    Also, before we all get so hung up on the pick that was given up, how about we wait until AFTER the draft and see who was available with that pick and what the Lions do with it…

    Nah, that’s asking for too much common sense.

    The Other Side of the Coin Says:
    April 16th, 2015 at 9:29 am

    If the it were draft day and the Bucs traded their 5th for the Lions 7th and Johnson everyone would be cheering their heads off. Keep it in perspective.


    They would’ve all said, “Good move. It’s not like we would’ve gotten someone better with that pick anyway.”

  33. ColoradoBuc Says:

    Criminy – can’t you folks ever say something nice about someone overcoming hardships? Why always with the negativity on this site?

  34. tmaxcon Says:


    reality is 2-14 – is reality negativity or is negativity fact

  35. foghead407 Says:

    Idk why everyone is excited that we got a guy who was out of football. And got six sacks. Whoopty doo. Didnt kno six sacks is worth that money. Sign me up bucs

  36. BoJim Says:

    He’s a Buc now. Get over it please.