During his college football career at New Mexico State University he became the only person to date to be named Most Valuable Player of the Sun Bowl in consecutive years, winning the award in 1959 and 1960. He is a member of the NMSU Sports Hall of Fame and is the only player in the history of the NMSU football program to have his jersey number (33) retired.
He was named to the NFL Pro Bowl in 1963 and is a member of the Denver Broncos Ring of Fame. He was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated twice, on the December 14, 1964 and November 1, 1965 issues as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals. An engineering major at NMSU, Johnson continued his academic pursuits during his NFL career and obtained master's and doctoral degrees in chemical engineering from Washington University in St. Louis while concurrently playing in the NFL. Johnson obtained his initial Chemical Engineering degree at NMSU with a 4.0 GPA. He retired as a professor of chemical engineering at his alma mater, New Mexico State University in May 2012.