Dennis Johnson’s first played organized football as a second-grader for the Harrodsburg (Ky.) High School varsity squad. Due to low enrollment, Johnson dressed for the varsity team along with his older brother, Derrick, a third-grader. Johnson, who stood 5-foot-7 and nearly 170 pounds in the second grade mostly was used as a practice dummy, but in some games saw playing time in the final minutes. Johnson would not play varsity football again until the seventh grade due to a rule change by Kentucky’s athletic association. Johnson finished a seven-year high school career as Kentucky’s Mr. Football in 1997.
Johnson decided to stay home and play football, ch0osing Kentucky over elite programs that included Notre Dame, Florida, Miami (Fla.) and Colorado. Johnson started six games as a freshman and led the defensive ends with 26 tackles. Johnson was chosen second-team Freshman All-America by The Sporting News, and honorable mention Freshman All-American by Football News.
As a sophomore, Johnson finished with 39 tackles and led the team in quarterback sacks with five for -33 yards that earned him All-SEC honors from The Associated Press. After a high ankle sprain in the first game of the season against Louisville during his junior season, Johnson received medical redshirt that retained the year of eligibility.
Upon his return in 2001, Johnson lad the SEC in tackles for a loss, sacks and forced fumbles. Johnson set a school record with a conference-best 12 tackles. Johnson left Kentucky following his junior season and entered the NFL Draft.
The Arizona Cardinals selected Johnson in the third round (98th overall) of the 2002 NFL Draft. In Johnson’s first year in the league, he played in 13 games, finished with 15 tackles. Johnson started 10 out of 15 games in his second season and finished with 42 combined tackles. In 2004, Johnson was traded to the San Francisco 49ers where he played in one game. Johnson retired following his third year in the NFL.
Johnson returned to Lexington to coach football, including stints as an assistant at Lafayette High School and Lexington Christian Academy. Johnson served as the head coach at Jessie Clark Middle School and Crawford Middle School.
In March, Johnson was hired as the head coach of Woodford County High School along with being inducted into the Dawahares/KHSAA Hall of Fame.
“I am very excited to be at WCHS. I think this is a place where you can grow a football program,” said Johnson. “Woodford has the potential to be a great football team next year. I think the community will support a team that puts a good product on the field.”
Johnson takes over a Woodford team that has had only one winning season in the last seven years. Johnson will also have the privilege of coaching Drake Jackson, the offensive guard committed to Kentucky, in his senior season. Jason is one of the top-ranked centers in the 2016 recruiting class.
“I met Drake and think he brings the star power to bring a lot of attention to the school and the community,” Johnson said. “He seemed to be a humble young man that is ready to go to work. I think our offensive line is huge and will be a big key to our team just like it was at Lafayette. But the honeymoon is over and it’s time to go to work.”