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Saints Countdown to NFL Kickoff 2021: #53 Vaughan Johnson

Saints News Network's Countdown to Kickoff: 53 Days until the New Orleans Saints Week 1 Matchup vs the Green Bay Packers on September 12th, 2021.

The New Orleans Saints are 53 days away from their Week 1 clash with the Pack. Here is a look at one of the greatest players in New Orleans Saints history to wear #53: LB Vaughan Johnson.

Vaughan Johnson, 1962-2019, played nine NFL seasons, eight with the New Orleans Saints. A North Carolina native, Johnson attended NC State to play college football. After four years with the Wolfpack, the Jacksonville Bulls of the USFL selected Johnson in the 1984 Territorial Draft. In two seasons with the USFL, the 6'3" Linebacker  played in 35 games.

The New Orleans Saints selected Johnson 15th overall in the 1984 NFL Supplemental Draft of USFL and CFL players. He joined the Saints in 1986 after the USFL folded. 

In Johnson's first NFL season the Saints formed the greatest LB corps in NFL History, "The Dome Patrol". The NFL Network's best linebacking group in NFL history consisted of Rickey Jackson, Pat Swilling, Vaughan Johnson, and Sam Mills. The group stayed together from 1986-1992. In that span, the four LBs combined for 18 Pro-Bowl appearances, including all four LBs making the Pro-Bowl in 1992.  This Pro-Bowl remains as the only time in NFL history that all four LBs from the same team were selected to the same Pro-Bowl roster as starters.

After appearing in all 16 games as a rookie, Johnson was named the starting MLB in the strike-shortened 1987 season. The following year he posted his first 100+ tackle season. Johnson would be named to four consecutive Pro-Bowls from 1989-1992, collecting 320 tackles in that time frame. Following the 1993 season the infamous "Dome Patrol" went their separate ways and Johnson joined the Philadelphia Eagles.

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The man nicknamed "Meat" retired following the 1994 season. Six years later, Johnson was inducted into the New Orleans Saints Hall of Fame alongside "Dome Patrol" teammate Pat Swilling. Vaughan Johnson ended his Saints career with 120 games played, and 98 starts. He tallied 664 tackles, 11 FF, and 4 INT for the Black and Gold in route to four Pro-Bowls and two first-team All-Pro selections. 

Johnson passed away in his home state of North Carolina in December 2019 after a battle with kidney disease. He was 57 years old.

Follow Saints News Network’s Writer, Brendan Boylan, on Twitter & Instagram at @btboylan.

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