Needham-raised former NFL tight end Eric Johnson is making headlines, but not for his work on the field. He is Jessica Simpson's latest boyfriend, according to various media reports and Internet tabloid buzz yesterday.
Johnson's fame all started in Needham, said former Needham Rockets varsity football coach Roy Johan.
"He was a terrific all around athlete," he said.
Johnson started for the Needham High Rockets his junior and senior years. He played running back, wide receiver, free safety and even punter for the Rockets, who went 8-2 and 7-3 those seasons, respectively.
Johan said he couldn't quite tell if the then slender Johnson had the makings of a professional athlete, but he knew he had the drive.
"I would say he was an on the field type leader," said Johan. "He kind of led by example. He worked hard in practice. He was a very intense kid in that regard."
Johnson, a seventh round draft pick of the San Francisco 49ers in 2001, hit the ground running after his days on the Needham High School gridiron. He was a star wide received at Yale University in 2000, and went on to catch 40 passes for 362 yards his rookie season in San Francisco. Plagued by injuries throughout his years in San Francisco, he signed a new contract with the New Orleans Saints in 2007. He was eventually released by the team in 2008 and hasn't seen the field since, or the media spotlight, since.
There are questions as to whether Johnson will make a comeback in the NFL. Johan said he was resilient back in the day.
"I don't think he missed a game or a down due to injury," he said.
The coach said; however, the most recent news regarding the former Needham Rockets and Yale Bulldogs star is not much of a surprise.
"Well, he's a good looking kid, let's be honest," Johan said with a laugh.