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Billy Johnson
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Billy Johnson

Billy Johnson, aka "White Shoes", was a pro football player in the 1970's and 1980's. He is widely famous for his elaborate celebrations in the end zone.

Johnson earned his famous nickname as a high schooler, where he wore white shoes to stand out (black shoes are more common for football players). He was a very fast athlete, but his 5'9" size turned off prominent universities from recruiting him. Billy ended up going to Widener College in Pennsylvania, a small Division III school, where he had a highly successful career, but was barely noticed by pro scouts. He was eventually discovered by the Houston Oilers, who selected him in the 15th round of the 1974 NFL draft.

Despite the late selection, he managed to make the squad as a kick returner. Eventually, his speed and quickness became an occasional part of an offense. As a rookie, he began celebrating touchdowns with a dance known as the "Funky Chicken", a dance based on a song from soul singer Rufus Thomas. It was one of the first touchdown celebrations in league history. The dance, along with his footwear, made Billy Johnson very popular among Oilers fans.

As a kick returner, Johnson returned 5 punts for touchdowns, along with 2 kickoffs, in his first 4 years with the Oilers, and added 12 more TD's on offense. He was selected to the Pro Bowl as a kick returner in 1975, and was named MVP of the game, during which he ran a punt back 90 yards for a touchdown. He made another Pro Bowl appearance in 1977. In 1978, he suffered a knee injury that caused him to miss most of the next two seasons and lingered with him for the rest of his career. When he returned in 1980, he was no longer the kick returner, serving only as a backup wide receiver.

A year in the Canadian Football league followed in 1981, then he resurfaced with the Atlanta Falcons in 1982. In 1983, he doubled as a full time kick returner, where he scored his 6th career touchdown on a punt return, and starting wide receiver, leading the team in receptions. Johnson earned his 3rd Pro Bowl berth that season. He missed most of 1984 to injury, and was benched as a returnman in 1985. However, he did lead the Falcons in receptions and receiving yards that season. Another injury in 1986 began to signal the beginning of the end for White Shoes, and he retired after the 1987 season, although he briefly unretired to play one game for the Washington Redskins in 1988.

In 1994, White Shoes was selected as the punt returner on the NFL's 75th Anniversary Team. His days at Widener have also earned him a selection into the College Football Hall of Fame.

Billy Johnson was also a New York Yankees 3rd baseman in the 1940's. Johnson (full name William Russell) debuted in 1943 and had an impressive rookie season which earned him 4th place in American League MVP voting.

After missing two years for wartime service, he returned to spend the next five seasons as a regular 3rd baseman. Johnson was named an all-star in 1947, and was a part of four championship teams in his six seasons as a regular. He was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals in 1951 to allow Gil McDougald, a hot prospect for the Yankees, to play his position full time. He served as the Cards' third baseman for two years before retiring during the 1953 season.