Talk of Fame Network
There is only one member of the NFL's 75th anniversary team not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and, judging by years of polling, he probably never will gain admission.
Billy "White Shoes" Johnson, come on down.
Johnson not only was the return specialist for the 75th anniversary team; he was a three-time All-Pro, a Comeback Player of the Year and a two-time all-decade choice. Yet he's not in the Hall of Fame, and someone must explain that to the Talk of Fame Network.
Johnson tried on the latest broadcast.
"I think things change," he said. "Your writers and voters change. And some of the ones that are on the board now probably don’t know the real history of the NFL; didn’t look back on the years and recognize (what happened). It happens. I don’t get upset. I don’t lose any sleep over it."
Maybe he should. Because Johnson is one of several special-teams stars (Brian Mitchell, Morten Andersen and Steve Tasker are others) denied admission to the Hall, with Mitchell never making it as a semifinalist and Tasker failing to reach the final 15. Worse, there are only two specialists in Canton – kicker Jan Stenerud and punter Ray Guy, and it took Guy nearly three decades to get there in 2015.
Clearly, the Hall's voters are blind to special teams, and Johnson isn’t sure why.
"That’s something I try to figure out," he said. "Basically, it's one of those things where I don’t know if they know how important special teams are in a game. For instance, Ray Guy. Ray Guy was a game changer. He would kick the ball a mile high and give his coverage team a chance to get down and surround it so there weren’t any returns. It was so impactful that he was a weapon. A defensive weapon. And I guess when you look at it over the years – you have good people doing it – but I guess they don’t look at the emphasis of that part of the game."
I guess. They don’t look at Billy "White Shoes" Johnson, either. He's qualified for admission, but, like Mitchell, has never been a semifinalist. One difference: Mitchell retired in 2005; Johnson has been out of the game for nearly three decades.
"Do you believe you belong?" we asked him.
"Yeah, I do," he said. "I mean, of course, I'm biased. In another two years I'm going to be All-Universe (he laughs).
"Here's how I look at it: I am honored just to be talking to you guys about the Hall of Fame. It's an honor. It’s a big-time honor. And I would try selling my case, and if they (voters) didn’t believe, they didn’t like, that’s fine. Just to be recognized as a thought for being selected to the Hall of Fame is something else in itself."
(Billy Johnson photo courtesy of the Tennessee Titans)