Bobby Johnson is a retired football coach and former player. He was most recently the head football coach at Vanderbilt University, a position he held from the 2002 season until his retirement in 2010. In December 2001, Johnson became the Commodores’ head coach, after leading Furman University to the Division I-AA national championship game. He coached the Paladins between 1994-2001, leading the team to a 60-36 overall record during his eight years. Prior to his hiring at Furman, Johnson was also the defensive coordinator for the Clemson Tigers. In 2008, Johnson led Vanderbilt to its first winning season since 1982. His team went 7-6 with a 16-14 win over Boston College in the Music City Bowl, Vanderbilt’s first bowl victory since 1955 and only their second in school history.
Johnson was a standout in football, basketball, and baseball during his time at Eau Claire High School in his native hometown of Columbia, South Carolina. He continued his success in football at college, where he played both wide receiver and cornerback for Clemson University. In the 1971 and 1972 seasons, Johnson led the Tigers in interceptions. Johnson was twice named as an ACC All-Academic honoree. He graduated from Clemson in 1973, earning his Bachelor of Science degree in management, before earning his master’s degree in education from Furman in 1979.
On July 14, 2010, Johnson announced his retirement from coaching. Citing it as a “personal decision”, the decision was a surprise to the program and the media as it occurred less than two months away from the 2010-11 season. In explaining his decision, he stated: “Football is not life, but it’s a way of life and it consumes your life. You only have so many years to live, and you want to see a different way.”
His tenure at Vanderbilt was lauded for bringing a resurgence to a team that had long been dominated by its fellow members of the SEC Conference, notably guiding the Commodores their first bowl game win in 53 years and first non-losing season since 1982 as well as snapping a 22-game losing streak to rival Tennessee.