CFL Pass

"My time in Winnipeg was the most memorable"

Jovon Johnson suited up for 188 regular season games over a 12-year Canadian Football League career. So, heck yeah, he piled up some memories over a dozen seasons playing three-down football.

But given time to reflect – he played his last game in 2018 with the Saskatchewan Roughriders – the 36-year-old product of Erie, PA has a ton of snapshots running around in his head, the best of them coming from his days with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers from 2008-13.

That’s why Johnson chose to sign a one-day contract with the club on Tuesday, allowing him to officially retire as a Blue Bomber.

“When I think about my career in the CFL and I look back at all the memories it always goes back to Winnipeg,” began Johnson, in a conversation with “No matter how many different teams I played for and all the different memories I have, the majority of them come from my time in Winnipeg.

“It was the staff, the guys I now call friends and family and still talk to today… those are long-lasting memories. I wouldn’t trade them at all for anything in the world. My time in Winnipeg was the most memorable experience I had playing in the CFL.”

Johnson joined the Bombers in 2008 after first breaking into the league with the Saskatchewan Roughriders in 2007 and playing in two games in his first season. A four-year starter at the University of Iowa, Johnson immediately found a home in the Bombers’ secondary.

His most productive CFL years came in Bombers colours, as he finished with 363 tackles, 23 interceptions, eight fumble recoveries and seven defensive touchdowns. Johnson still ranks second on the Bombers’ all-time interception return yardage list with 500 and his six interception return touchdowns are a club record. A gifted kick returner, he is the Bombers’ all-time leader in punt return yards with 2,933.

Johnson was twice named a CFL All-Star as a Bomber (2009, 2011) and was three times an East Division All-Star (2009, 2010, 2011). His 2011 campaign with the Bombers was historic as he was named a CFL All-Star and honoured as the CFL Most Outstanding Defensive Player, becoming the first defensive back in league history to win the award. That year, he was named the Bombers’ Most Outstanding Player, Most Outstanding Defensive Player and Most Outstanding Special Teams Player.

It was during that time that Johnson also came up with the idea for ‘Swaggerville’, a nickname for a Bombers defence that also featured, among others, Odell Willis, Jonathan Hefney, Alex Suber, Clint Kent and Doug Brown.

“That was just our personalities. It came out on the field, it came out with the fans,” Johnson explained. “It was just who we were. We were vibrant and we wanted all of our fans to know we appreciated them and they could come up and say ‘What’s up?’ to us and know we were going to talk to them. We wanted everybody to be a part of it.

“That year we felt like we had the team to go ahead and win it and bring that cup home to Winnipeg before they did it this year. We really wanted it. We were hungry. We had that 7-1 start and then maybe got a little ahead of ourselves and lost focus a bit in the middle of the season. But when it was crunch time we all locked back in and went on our run. Unfortunately, we didn’t bring it home, but we thought that we had the players to do it.

“Still, that was such a great ride. That year was one of the best years of my life.”

Johnson is now the defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach at Defiance College in Ohio. A respected teammate and mentor to many younger defensive backs who followed him into the CFL, Johnson began coaching six years ago before making that his profession last season.

His final days as a Bomber were not necessarily pleasant, as the club opted not to sign him in 2014 and he then joined the Ottawa REDBLACKS. And while the divorce was ugly, Tuesday’s news closes that old wound.

“I had that rough patch in Winnipeg when I left, but at the end of the day it’s all love,” said Johnson. “I don’t have any ill feelings toward anyone. That’s the way a professional career goes sometimes. As a player you’d like to play somewhere your whole career, but it just doesn’t work out like that all the time. I played for some first-class organizations.

“I was able to play for 12 years. It was a great journey for me and I couldn’t appreciate it any more than I do.”


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