Feb. 16, 2005
The Chicago Bears today hired UCLA assistant coach Don Johnson as the team's defensive line coach. Johnson has spent the last five seasons with UCLA, serving as the defensive line coach since 2001 and recruiting coordinator since 2004 (he coached the interior defensive line in 2000).
"This was a very tough decision, an emotional decision," said Johnson. "I have really enjoyed my five years at UCLA, it's a great place to coach. The toughest thing is leaving my players, but I felt that at this time in my career, this is an opportunity I needed to seize."
"We are thrilled for Don," said UCLA head coach Karl Dorrell. "Don has done some great things at UCLA and we are going to miss him, but we are excited that he has this opportunity to coach in the NFL."
Johnson is a veteran of 18 seasons of coaching at the collegiate level. In 2004, he tutored a young, improving defensive line. Led by the Dave Ball, the 2003 ABC-Chevrolet National Defensive Player of the Year, Johnson had three lineman invited to the NFL combine in 2004. Ball set UCLA season (16.5) and career (30.5) records for sacks, won the Morris Trophy (presented to the top lineman in the Pac-10), was a finalist for the Bronko Nagurski, Rotary Lombardi and Ted Hendricks awards and earned unanimous All-America honors. In 2002, Ball had a breakout season in which he totaled 15 tackles for loss and 11.0 sacks. In 2001, end Kenyon Coleman became the first UCLA defensive lineman to win the Morris Trophy and UCLA ranked third in the league in rushing defense.
Prior to his stint at UCLA, the New Jersey native coached defensive ends and the punt return unit at Nevada-Reno from 1995-99. The Wolfpack won three conference titles and made two bowl appearances during his tenure. While at UNR, Johnson spent two off-seasons in the NFL minority coaching internship program with the San Francisco 49ers under then-head coach Steve Mariucci.
Johnson, 50, spent eight years coaching at two different colleges in southern California. He began his college coaching career in 1987 as an assistant at Riverside Community College where he helped guide the team to four bowl appearances and a Junior College nation championship in 1989, posting an 11-0 record. He spent two years at Cal State Fullerton from 1991-92 before the school dropped the football program and he returned to Riverside for two seasons.
After playing his college ball at Jersey City State in New Jersey, Johnsonís playing career culminated with the New Jersey Generals of the USFL after earning a free agent tryout with the New York Jets. He graduated from Jersey State in 1976 with a degree in physical education. Johnson earned all-county and all-state honors as a defensive lineman at Weequahic High School in Newark, N.J.
Johnson began his coaching career at Santa Ana (CA) Valley High School from 1976 to 1982. Johnson moved back East and returned to coach linebackers at his alma mater in New Jersey for two years (1984-85). He went back to coach at Valley High in 1986 before moving up to Riverside College.
Johnson spent 25 years as a high school and college basketball official, including eight years at the Division I level. He spent four years as President of the Orange County (CA) Basketball Officials Association and two years as President of the California Basketball Officials Association.