Charles Johnson, the former NFL wide receiver who played for both Pennsylvania teams at the turn of the century, has died at 50, the University of Colorado, Johnson’s alma mater, announced Wednesday.
A first-round draft pick of the Steelers in 1994, Johnson had been serving as the assistant athletic director for Heritage High School in Wake Forest. His death was announced by his employer. Besides his five-year run in Pittsburgh, he spent two seasons with the Eagles and won Super Bowl XXXVI as a member of the Patriots.
Raleigh Police were called on Sunday afternoon to Spring Forest Road, roughly 20 minutes from Wake Forest, where they found Johnson at a hotel, according to ABC11 (WTVD). The cause of death has not been announced.
Born and raised in California, Johnson emerged as a standout for the Colorado Buffaloes before the Steelers drafted him No. 17 overall in 1994. He made an early impact as one of Pittsburgh’s top pass targets on four straight playoff teams, including in 1996, when he posted a career-high 60 catches for 1,008 yards. Johnson then parlayed a career-high seven touchdowns in 1997 into a five-year, $15 million deal with the Eagles, who deployed him as a mentor for then-rookie Donovan McNabb in 1999.
Johnson was one of Philadelphia’s top receivers during Andy Reid’s first winning season as Eagles head coach in 2000, when he led the team with seven TD catches. The following year, he played a reserve role for the Patriots during the first title run of the Tom Brady-Bill Belichick dynasty. He closed his NFL career with the Bills in 2002.