Football Team

WFT's quest to sign Johnson resulted in a game-winning kick

Football Team
Brian Johnson hits game-winning kick for WFT vs. LV

Brian Johnson's story continues to get better by the minute.

The rookie kicker, Washington's fourth of the season, was signed just six days ago following an injury to Joey Slye. Then on Sunday in his debut with Washington -- his hometown team -- Johnson nailed a 48-yard field goal with 37 seconds remaining, a kick that would propel the Burgundy and Gold to its fourth straight victory.

While it might seem like a Hollywood script, the truth of the matter is that Washington wanted to sign Johnson long before the club actually did.

"The irony of it all is he was somebody we were watching all along," head coach Ron Rivera said Monday.

In training camp, Rivera and his staff wanted to bring in Johnson as a competition for Dustin Hopkins, who had been Washington's kicker since 2015. However, Johnson spurned his hometown team and initially signed with the Chicago Bears.

Just a few months later, Johnson was Rivera's top choice to replace Hopkins when the head coach decided he wanted to move on from Washington's longtime kicker following the club's Week 6 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. Yet, the New Orleans Saints had beaten Washington to the punch, as they signed Johnson before the Football Team could.

So, when Washington kicker Joey Slye went down with a hamstring injury in the first half of the team's Week 12 win over the Seattle Seahawks, Rivera told his staff during halftime of that contest to reach out to Johnson, who had been signed to the Bears practice squad following his release from New Orleans earlier in November.

 

"Brian was back in Chicago. So, we plucked him off their practice squad and brought him here and gave him the opportunity," Rivera said.

Rivera first had the chance to meet Johnson when the kicker arrived at the team facility last Tuesday to sign his contract. During their initial conversation, Rivera told Johnson that he'd play a big role in Washington winning a game this season. Little did they both know that moment would come just a few days later.

"I met him the first time in the hallway when he came to sign his contract and just told him '[I] appreciate you coming by. Just know, you'll get an opportunity to win a game for us,'" Rivera said. "And so, he makes the kick, I congratulate him and say 'great job. I knew you were going to get your chance and you took advantage of it.'"

One of the best moments that came during the aftermath of Sunday's game came from defensive lineman Jonathan Allen, who admitted that he didn't even know Johnson's name prior to his game-winning kick. 

"Hell yeah, I was nervous. I've never seen him kick. I didn't even know his name," Allen said on Sunday.

Allen was far from the only player who didn't know Johnson's name, too. Taylor Heinicke was one of the players that did know his new kicker's name, but the quarterback echoed Allen's thoughts postgame that many of his teammates did not. Now, of course, that's no longer the case.

"I kind of liked what Taylor [Heinicke] said: not everyone knew who he was, but now they do," Rivera said. "I think that's a good thing for Brian and for us."