Don Johnson begins his fifth season at UCLA as an assistant coach and 2004 will be his fourth in charge of the entire defensive line. During his initial season in 2000, Johnson tutored the Bruin interior defensive line. For the 2004 season, he has also assumed the duties of recruiting coordinator.
In 2003, senior Dave Ball emerged as one of the nation's best defensive ends, tying for the national lead in sacks. He was chosen as the ABC-Chevrolet National Defensive Player of the Year and was a finalist for three other national Player of the Year awards. Ball was selected Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year and the defensive winner of the Morris Trophy, awarded to the top defensive lineman in a vote of their Pac-10 peers. Three of coach Johnson's defensive linemen were invited to the NFL scouting combine in February of 2004.
In 2002, Dave Ball had a breakout season totaling 11.5 sacks and 15 tackles for loss while earning second-team All-Pac-10 honors. In 2001, the Bruins led the Pac-10 in total defense and ranked second against the run. Kenyon Coleman was the defensive winner of the Morris Trophy. In addition, he earned first-team all-conference honors. Rodney Leisle was selected second-team all-conference and three other Bruins were honorable mention selections. In 2000, Johnson helped then redshirt freshman Leisle develop into an honorable mention all-conference performer in his first season on the field.
Johnson joined the staff at UCLA in February of 2000 after serving the previous five seasons (1995-99) as an assistant at the University of Nevada in Reno. He coached the defensive ends as well as handling the punt return unit for Nevada. The Wolfpack captured three conference championships and made a couple of bowl appearances during his tenure, winning the 1996 Las Vegas Bowl.
During his time in Reno, he spent two off-seasons in an NFL summer internship program with the San Francisco 49ers. Johnson was highly recommended by members of the 49er staff, including then-head coach Steve Mariucci. Prior to moving to Nevada, Johnson spent eight years coaching at three different colleges in southern California. In 1987, he became an assistant at Riverside Community College and helped guide the team to four bowl appearances and a Junior College national championship in 1989, posting an 11-0 record. He spent two seasons at Cal State Fullerton (1991-92) before the school dropped the football program. He then returned to Riverside College for two seasons prior to joining the staff at the University of Nevada.
Several 2001 Bruin defensive linemen -- Anthony Fletcher, Ken Kocher and Coleman -- were in NFL camps the following season. Five of those 2001 defensive linemen earned some type of all-conference recognition from the Pac-10 coaches.
The Bruin defensive line coach played college football at Jersey City State in New Jersey. He earned a free agent tryout with the New York Jets and also spent time with the New Jersey Generals of the USFL. Johnson graduated from Jersey City State in 1976 with a degree in physical education. He earned all-county and all-state honors as a defensive lineman at Weequahic High School in Newark, NJ. Johnson began his coaching career at Santa Ana, CA Valley High School in 1976 and worked there until 1982. In 1984, he moved back East and returned to coach linebackers at his alma mater in New Jersey for two years. He returned to Valley High in 1986 and went on to coach at Riverside, CA Community College the following season.
Don also spent 25 years as a high school and college basketball official, including eight years at the Division I level. He served four years as President of the Orange County, CA Basketball Officials Association and two years as President of the California Basketball Officials Association.
RECRUITING RESPONSIBILITIES -- Local: Los Angeles, Long Beach, North Orange County; National: East Coast states and defensive linemen.
PERSONAL -- Education: Bachelor's in Physical Education, Jersey City State, 1976; At UCLA: Fifth year (joined staff in February of 2000); Born: November 3, 1954 in Newark, NJ; Family: He and his wife Deborah have three children, Denise, Don, Jr. and Leanna. A fourth, son Duane, died in an automobile accident in February of 2002.