A Tribute to New Orleans Saints Great Vaughan Johnson

Bob Rose

The New Orleans Saints lost a member of the family on Thursday when former linebacker Vaughan Johnson passed away at age 57 due to kidney disease. Johnson, a member of both the Saints and Louisiana Hall of Fame, was a star on a New Orleans defense that dominated the NFL from 1986 to 1993. He was a key member of the famed “Dome Patrol” linebacking corps that included Pat Swilling, the late Sam Mills, and NFL Hall of Famer Rickey Jackson. I caught up with a few of Vaughan’s former teammates and opponents; Here’s what they had to say about their fallen friend.

Linebacker Vaughan Johnson of the New Orleans Saints 

Toi Cook (CB - New Orleans Saints 1987-93, 49ers ‘94-95, Panthers ‘96-97)

“Wow! Vaughan was not only a great player but like Rickey Jackson said: ‘For as ferocious as he was on the field he was more laid back off of it’. He was a great teammate and hilarious friend! I loved hanging with Vaughan off the field. He was extremely intelligent, which he proved with his business ventures post-football. Everyone thought he was the athlete and Sam Mills was the intellect when in fact they were the same player just different heights.”

Quinn Early (WR - Chargers 1988-90, Saints ‘91-95, Bills ‘96-98, Jets ‘99)

“Vaughan Johnson was one of the hardest hitting football players I’ve ever seen. As part of the dome patrol, he was a menacing presence to whoever we played. Off the field he was a fantastic man who was taken from this world way too soon. God bless him and his family during this time. He will be missed.”

Jim Everett (QB - Rams 1986-92, Saints ‘93-96, Chargers ‘99)

“Vaughan Johnson was one the fiercest competitors we ever faced on Sundays. While he may have been slightly overshadowed in the media by the other 3 “Dome Patrol” members, it was Vaughan who was the glue to the group. Tenacious and an opportunistic player that made big plays regularly. While in NO (after his Eagle stint) I finally had a chance to meet and chat with Vaughan. What a kind person and gentle soul...what a surprise!! But he sure wasn’t that on Sundays!! RIP my friend. #TooEarly”

Tyrone Hughes (CB/KR - Saints 1993-96, Bears ‘97, Cowboys ‘98)

“Just a Great guy!! Would kill you on the field and kept a smile on his face off of it!!”

Irv Smith Sr. (TE - Saints 1993-97, 49ers ‘98, Browns ‘99)

‘Awful news. He was a great player and a great guy.’

Pat Swilling (LB - Saints 1986-92, Lions ‘93-94, Raiders ‘95-98)

“Vaughan was such a great guy and wonderful person. I want to let his family know how much he meant to me. Vaughan was never down a single day I knew him. He was always encouraging and carried a positive message.”

“Rickey (Jackson) had already been there for a few years, but Vaughan, Sam (Mills), and myself all joined the team together in 1986. None of us knew each other, but we all knew from Day 1 that we would be special. Vaughan, he was a knock your ass off and led by example type of leader. There was no better run stopper in the league ever but people forget what a freakish athlete he was. He was a 240-Lb man that could run a 4.4 40. Nobody liked getting hit by that twice!”

“Let me just say that it’s a travesty that Vaughan Johnson is not yet on the Wall of Fame in the Superdome. He is one of the greatest players to ever where the black and gold, and nobody is more deserving of that honor. I wish that it would have happened for him while he was still alive. That would have been such a thrill for him and his family.”

“My career would not have been what it was without 53 covering my ass. I can still hear Vaughan’s voice in the huddle saying: You go Swill I got you, you go Swill I got you’. When Vaughan Johnson tells you that, you have no fear.”

“I loved him as a teammate and a friend.”