Larry Johnson (American football coach)

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Larry Johnson
Larry Johnson.png
Johnson in 2014
Current position
TitleDefensive line coach
TeamOhio State
ConferenceBig Ten
Biographical details
Bornc. 1952 (age 69–70)
Williamston, North Carolina
Playing career
1970–1973Elizabeth City State
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
1974Lackey HS (MD) (Assistant)
1975–1991Maurice J. McDonough HS (MD)
1992–1993T. C. Williams HS (VA)
1996–1999Penn State (DE/ST)
2000–2013Penn State (DL)
2014–presentOhio State (DL/AHC)

Larry Johnson (born c. 1952) is an American football defensive line and associate head coach for the Ohio State Buckeyes football team. Prior to joining Ohio State, he served as an assistant football coach at Pennsylvania State University from 1996 to 2013. Johnson was a high school football coach in the Washington, D.C. area from 1983 to 1993. He is the father of former National Football League running back Larry Johnson and former Penn State wide receiver Tony Johnson.

Playing career[edit]

A native of Williamston, North Carolina, Johnson was a standout linebacker at Elizabeth City State University,[1] earning NAIA All-America honors there in 1973.[2] Johnson was initiated as a member of Iota Phi Theta fraternity while attending Elizabeth City State.

High school coaching career[edit]

A legendary prep coach in the state of Maryland, Johnson was a six-time coach-of-the-year, and architect of one of the winningest football programs in the Maryland public school system. From 1977 to 1991, Johnson's teams at Maurice J. McDonough High School in Pomfret, Maryland were annually ranked among the top squads in the Washington, DC metropolitan area. In his final eight years, the Ram dynasty amassed an 82-10 record, made eight consecutive appearances in the state playoffs, were 8–2 in championship games and captured three Division 3A state championships (1983, 1985, and 1990). His overall record as head coach was 139–36.

From 1992 to 1993, Johnson was head coach at T. C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Virginia (made famous by the film Remember the Titans). He was hired by his brother AK Johnson, the school's athletic director.

College coaching career[edit]

Johnson with Penn State in 2007

Johnson was the defensive line coach at Penn State from 2000 to 2013. From 1996 to 1999 he served as the Nittany Lions' defensive ends and special teams coach. In that time, Johnson developed a reputation for being a premier blue chip recruiter, consistently landing top talent from the mid-Atlantic states. He was instrumental in the development of five first-team All-Americans there: Devon Still, first-round NFL draft choices Tamba Hali, Michael Haynes, and Jimmy Kennedy, and former first-overall selection Courtney Brown.[2]

Johnson was offered the defensive coordinator and assistant head coach job at Illinois in January 2009. He ultimately decided to continue at Penn State.[3] On November 10, 2011 Tom Bradley announced that Johnson and linebackers coach Ron Vanderlinden would serve as co-defensive coordinators. [4] On January 7, 2012, Johnson was retained as a coach on the team's staff with the arrival of new head coach Bill O'Brien. On January 1, 2014, Johnson was named interim head coach after O'Brien's departure to the NFL. Later that month, Johnson left Penn State after 18 years when he was hired by Ohio State to be an assistant head coach and defensive line coach.[5][6] At Ohio State, Johnson is known for his ability to develop several highly-touted NFL prospects such as Joey Bosa, Nick Bosa, and Chase Young.[7] All three would later go on to win the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award in their respective seasons.[8]

Johnson was Ohio State's acting head coach for the 2020 win over Michigan State after head coach Ryan Day had tested positive for COVID-19.[9][10]


Johnson has two sons: Larry, who was a running back at Penn State and the NFL in the 2000s; and Tony, who was a wide receiver at Penn State in the early 2000s.[11]


  1. ^ Coaching Database - Larry Johnson,
  2. ^ a b "Profile: Larry Johnson" Archived February 22, 2009, at the Wayback Machine, Penn State Intercollegiate Athletics website
  3. ^ Fortuna, Matt (April 24, 2009). "L.J. remains loyal to Lions after Illinois offer". The Daily Collegian.
  4. ^ "Bradley: Jay Paterno, Mike McQueary to coach Saturday". Press Conference Notes. Archived from the original on April 2, 2012.
  5. ^ "Ohio State hires Penn State's Larry Johnson to coach D-line". USA TODAY. Retrieved September 24, 2018.
  6. ^ "Day Announces Additions to Defensive Staff". January 7, 2019.
  7. ^ Rosenberg, Michael. "The Man Who Runs Ohio State's Pass Rush Factory". Retrieved April 21, 2020.
  8. ^ Nakos, Pete (June 30, 2021). "Larry Johnson products dominate top-five defensive ends in Buckeyes history". Retrieved July 28, 2021.
  9. ^ Dinich, Heather (November 27, 2020). "Ohio State coach Ryan Day among those in football program to test positive for COVID-19". Retrieved December 7, 2020.
  10. ^ Rittenberg, Adam (December 5, 2020). "Ohio State coach Ryan Day hopeful that 'worst part is behind us' after COVID-19 issues". Retrieved December 7, 2020.
  11. ^ "Hip-Hop & R&B Station - Washington D.C. - WPGC-FM | WPGC 95.5 FM".

External links[edit]