On a week in which the National Football League championship (better known as the Super Bowl) is on the tip of every tongue in Denver, Wednesday’s college national signing day might have flown a bit more under the radar than it would in other years. Still, the Buffs and Rams, not to mention the Bears, WolfPack, Oregiggers and other programs, were busy with their future student-athletes getting ink on paper for the upcoming college football season.
It’s been 25 years since former Colorado Buffaloes and New England Patriots linebacker Ted Johnson signed his own letter for the University of Colorado, but the memories of his playing days are still vivid, even after adding three Super Bowl titles of his own with New England.
Johnson joined Gil Whiteley and James Merilatt on Mile High Sports AM 1340 from Radio Row at Super Bowl 50 on Wednesday to reminisce about his playing days at CU, compare some of the great Buffs teams and offer his take on the recruiting class head coach Mike MacIntyre put together for this year.
The Carlsbad, Calif. product joined CU in 1991, one year after CU’s national championship, but he did play for what many people believe was the most talented Buffs squad, the 1994 team. That team produced 10 NFL draft picks that year, Johnson remembers
“My recruiting class – the 1991 recruiting class – the recruiting class after the national championship was loaded with All-Americans,” Johnson remembers. “I came in with Kordell Stewart, that was our class.”
Colorado was 11-1 in 1994, having lost only to the eventual national champions, the hated bunch from Nebraska.
“The only game we lost was to Nebraska. We had our chance,” Johnson says with a twinge of regret in his voice.
As for that ’94 team and how it compares to the national championship team, Johnson says:
“I loved our team in ’94. We were stacked. We had 10 guys drafted into the NFL. Hagan vs. Kordell, you know? We had Michael Westbrook, Christian Fauria. On offensive line, Tony Birtie, on and on and on, [Bryan] Stoltenberg, Chris Naeole. And on defense too.
“That sqaud in ’90 – Chad Brown, [Greg] Biekert, Joel Steed, Chris Hudson, Deon Figures. You know, honestly, they were both stacked.”
Johnson failed to mention one of most talented members of the ’94 team, running back Rashaan Salaam, the 1994 Heisman Trophy winner.
Stewart was drafted just three picks after Johnson in the 1995 NFL draft and would go on to appear in a Super Bowl of his own. Perhaps the most memorable moment from the 1994 season was Stewart’s Hail Mary pass, now known as”The Miracle at Michigan.” When asked about his memories from that game, Johnson said he recalls something unique about head coach Bill McCartney.
“I just remember Mac being so confident and sure that we were going to win this game,” he remembers.
There has been less confidence at CU in recent years under the new “Coach Mac,” Mike MacIntyre, who has won just 10 games in his first three years at the helm. MacIntyre has the difficult task of rebuilding a program that was 1-11 and 3-10 in the two years before he arrived.
The fastest way to fix the record, Merilatt believes, is by adding talent from outside the state lines. He was happy to see that Colorado had secured commitments from players from California, Texas, and Florida, to name a few – states that produced some of the all-time great Buffs of those ’90s.
Johnson agrees that going outside of Colorado will be key to long-term success. “That’s where the skill players are from. That’s where the talent pool is. You can get your interior linemen from the midwest states, but you really gotta go hit those states [Merilatt mentioned] hard if you’re going to win.”
Colorado’s recruiting has lacked punch in recent years, something that a new addition to the coaching staff should change.
“I see an impact. You got a quarterback from Texas Tech, so already [co-offensive coordinator Darrin] Chiaverini’s showing his impact on the coaching staff.”
The great Buffs of old likely won’t be comparing the 2015 recruiting class to theirs, but the foundation is being built to return future classes to that conversation.
Listen to the full discussion with Johnson, plus some talk about the Broncos chances in Super Bowl 50, in the podcast below…
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