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Billy "White Shoes" Johnson

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Billy Johnson
refer to caption
Johnson in 2021
No. 84, 81, 88
Position:Wide receiver,
Return specialist
Personal information
Born: (1952-01-27) January 27, 1952 (age 72)
Marcus Hook, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Height:5 ft 9 in (1.75 m)
Weight:170 lb (77 kg)
Career information
High school:Chichester
(Boothwyn, Pennsylvania)
College:Widener (1971–1973)
NFL draft:1974 / Round: 15 / Pick: 365
Career history
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Punt return yards:3,317
Kickoff return yards:2,941
Return touchdowns:8
Receiving yards:4,211
Receiving touchdowns:25
Player stats at PFR

William Arthur Johnson (born January 27, 1952), better known as Billy "White Shoes" Johnson, is an American former professional football player who was a wide receiver and return specialist in the National Football League (NFL) from 1974 through 1988. A 75th and 100th Anniversary All-Time NFL Team selection, Johnson was one of the first players to display elaborate celebrations in the end zone.

Early life[edit]

Johnson earned the nickname "White Shoes" in high school in the Chichester School District in Boothwyn, Pennsylvania, where he dyed his shoes as part of a dare.[1] Johnson attended Division III school Widener College in Pennsylvania, where he was a member of Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity. As a 5'9", 170-pound sophomore, Johnson was named to the 1972 Associated Press College Division All-American team.[2] Johnson was drafted by the Houston Oilers, in the 15th round of the 1974 NFL draft.

Professional career[edit]

Houston Oilers[edit]

Johnson joined the Houston Oilers as a kickoff returner, with his speed and quickness becoming an occasional part of the offense. As a rookie, he began celebrating touchdowns with a dance known as the "Funky Chicken", a dance based on a song from soul singer Rufus Thomas.[3] It was one of the first touchdown celebrations in league history.[3]

As a kick returner, Johnson returned five punts for touchdowns, along with two kickoffs, in his first four years with the Oilers, and added 12 more touchdowns on offense. He was selected to the Pro Bowl as a kick returner in 1975, and was named MVP of the game, during which he returned a punt 90 yards for a touchdown. He made another Pro Bowl appearance in 1977. In 1979, he suffered a knee injury that caused him to miss most of the next two seasons and lingered with him for the rest of his career. When he returned in 1980, he was no longer the kick returner, serving only as a backup wide receiver.

CFL and the Atlanta Falcons[edit]

Johnson played the 1981 season in the Canadian Football League with the Montreal Alouettes. He caught 65 passes for 1,060 yards and five touchdowns, and returned 59 punts for 597 yards. He returned to the NFL with the Atlanta Falcons in 1982. In 1983, he doubled as a full-time kick returner, where he scored his sixth career touchdown on a punt return, and starting wide receiver, leading the team in receptions. Johnson earned his third Pro Bowl berth that season. Most notably, he caught a Hail Mary pass to defeat the San Francisco 49ers. He missed most of 1984 due to injury, and was benched as a return man in 1985. Johnson was forced to curtail his end-zone dances after the NFL instituted a rule against excessive and premeditated celebration.[4] He led the Falcons in receptions and receiving yards in 1985. Johnson was injured in 1986 and retired after the 1987 season, although he played one game for the Washington Redskins in 1988.

Johnson (left) receiving his induction into the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame

Coaching career[edit]

Johnson is an assistant varsity football coach at Duluth High School in Duluth, Georgia.[5]

Professional softball career[edit]

Johnson appeared in 25 games for the Philadelphia Athletics of the American Professional Slo-Pitch Softball League (APSPL) in 1978, one of several men's professional softball leagues, batting .349 with four home-runs.[6]


In 1994, Johnson was selected as the punt returner on the NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team.[7] His was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1996 and the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame in 2018.[8][9]

Johnson is the only man selected to the National Football League 75th Anniversary All-Time Team who is not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Johnson is one of 29 individuals to be selected to multiple All-Decade teams.[10] On December 17, 2023, Johnson was inducted into the Tennessee Titans Ring of Honor.[11]

Masters Track and Field[edit]

Johnson was a star sprinter, and competed in Masters Track and Field after his football career.[12]


  1. ^ "Billy 'White Shoes' Johnson talks about his faith" Victoria Advocate, March 29, 2010
  2. ^ "UC Davis QB Is Little All-American". Santa Cruz Sentinel. December 6, 1972. p. 22 – via Newspapers.com.
  3. ^ a b Gutierrez, Paul (December 28, 2007). "Billy 'White Shoes' Johnson's Funky Chicken to Ocho Cinco's Riverdance, celebrations have become the show within the show". The Sacramento Bee. Retrieved September 1, 2016.
  4. ^ Dufresne, Chris (September 26, 1985). "White Shoes Johnson, Feeling Pinch of NFL, Has to Stop His Dance". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 1, 2016.
  5. ^ "Coaching Staff". Duluth High School Football. Archived from the original on August 29, 2014. Retrieved June 7, 2014.
  6. ^ Crossley, Andy (June 29, 2014). "1978-80 Philadelphia Athletics". Fun While it Lasted. Retrieved July 1, 2014.
  7. ^ NFL 2001 Record and Fact Book, Workman Publishing Co, New York,NY, ISBN 0-7611-2480-2, p.401
  8. ^ Terry Toohey, "'White Shoes' dances into Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame", Delaware County Times, November 1, 2018
  9. ^ "Billy "White Shoes" Johnson (2014) - Widener University Athletics Hall of Fame".
  10. ^ PFF: Tom Brady is first QB to make two all-decade teams
  11. ^ "Oilers Legend Billy "White Shoes" Johnson to be Inducted into the Franchise's Ring of Honor on Sunday vs Houston Texans".
  12. ^ "Fierce competition among friends". Herald & Review. Decatur, Illinois. August 7, 2004. p. 19. Retrieved 2021-12-24 – via Newspapers.com.

External links[edit]