Johnson’s Hall-of-Fame week started with a made-for-TV moment
COMMENTARY on Seattle’s defense for the halftime show — how its secondary was confused with coverage during a Green Bay touchdown — when Baker suddenly appeared on the set.
Baker, at 6-foot-9 and 400 pounds, had staged a secret game of his own. He flew across the country to Los Angeles after surprising Cowher. He declined to have a requested fan picture taken at his hotel. He entered the Fox studio through the loading dock. Then he told Johnson he had been elected in the Hall.
Johnson said a few words, but had to stop.
“I couldn’t talk,” he said. “My throat failed me. It clammed up. The whole time he was talking to me, I wasn’t breathing I was so excited. Michael [Strahan] got scared. Howie [Long] was pumping his finger, for me to get my inhaler [for asthma].”
Richards, the producer, was bawling. Aikman wiped away tears watching from Green Bay. Johnson collected himself on TV to say, “This is so special to me, because when you put in the work we put in, it’s nice to know people appreciate it.”
That’s it, right? Confirmation of greatness gives Hall of Fames their meaning. Johnson inherited a Dallas franchise of three straight losing seasons, including a 3-13 year before he arrived, and made it a Super Bowl dynasty. He re-defined how speed was used and how to rebuild through trades and draft picks.
And his Dolphins years? Three playoff trips in four years. Two playoff wins. New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who was part of the Hall’s panel of voters, evidently spoke up during the debate over Johnson when the Miami years were raised.
Said Johnson: “I heard he said, ‘You people don’t realize how good that team was defensively. They led the league one year in defense. It was always a battle to play them.’ That took away some of the perception of the Miami days.”
His Dolphins linebacker, Zach Thomas, was one of the hundreds who called to congratulate Johnson. Thomas is a Hall finalist, and his fate will be revealed on Feb. 1.
“Let’s get you in,” Johnson said. “We’ll go in together.”
What a night that would be in Canton. Johnson, though, is still riding the emotion of that live TV moment — as is everyone on the Fox team. While texting wardrobe director Victoria Trillin, he requested a few suits for the upcoming Super Bowl show.
“Mr. Hall of Famer, you’ve got it,” she texted back. “I’ve worked for Fox for 23 years. Sunday was the greatest moment of my entire time. Everybody on the set is so excited and happy for you.”
Johnson, sitting in Tavernier and still riding high, said as another phone call comes, “When something like this happens, you realize how many people were pulling for you.”