On Thursday afternoon, Wisconsin Badgers head coach Paul Chryst announced that he has hired former Wisconsin offensive lineman Al Johnson as the new running backs coach in Madison. Johnson will take over for Gary Brown, who will assume an off-field role with the program. Brown, who has had cancer twice, has not been with the team for several months now (since the Las Vegas Bowl) and we, obviously, hope that he is healthy and ready to contribute to the program in any way possible.
Johnson starred at center for the Badgers for three seasons from 2000 to 2002. He twice earned all-conference honorable mention before being named second-team All-Big Ten as a senior. He also was named a finalist for the Rimington Trophy — presented to the nation’s top center — and earned third-team All-America laurels as a senior in 2002.
“The absolute best part of coaching is helping to develop players on and off the field. I wouldn’t be where I am today or have accomplished the things I have in my career without the people at Wisconsin who set me up for success. My goal is do the same thing for our players. When you add to that the opportunity to help our guys uphold the tradition we have at running back, this is a fantastic opportunity. I’m truly grateful,” Johnson said.
Johnson was a grad assistant in Madison, working with the o-line, in 2016 and 2017 before taking the head coaching gig at East Central University in 2018. He also has served as the NCAA Division II school’s interim athletics director since July of 2021.
The Brussels native, that’s Wisconsin not Belgium btw, was picked by Dallas in the second round of the 2003 NFL Draft, Johnson went on to play four seasons at center for the Cowboys and helped the franchise to a pair of playoff appearances. He started at center for Arizona in 2007 and finished his career with stops in Miami and New England.
“I’m really excited to be able to bring Al back,” Chryst said. “He’s a great coach and a tremendous person. His experience as a head coach and in all facets of the offense will help us immensely. Al truly cares about the players and helping them in their development and he is a great addition to our staff.”
Wisconsin’s new look coaching staff now features six coaches with NFL playing experience and six (Bobby Engram and Alvis Whitted have both) with NFL coaching experience. Here is what the staff looks like now:
Paul Chryst - head coach
Bobby Engram - offensive coordinator
Jim Leonhard - defensive coordinator/safeties
Bob Bostad- offensive line
Al Johnson - running backs
Alvis Whitted - wide receivers
Chris Haering - special teams
Bobby April - outside linebackers/defensive run game coordinator
Ross Kolodziej - defensive line
Hank Poteat - cornerbacks
Bill Sheridan - inside linebackers
One can probably assume that Engram will take on the role of tight ends coach now that Mickey Turner is in charge of the recruiting department.