Former NFL defensive lineman dies following stroke

Gary “Big Hands” Johnson, who played  for the Chargers from 1975 through 1984 and the 49ers in 1984 and 1985, has died following a stroke, according to Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune.  Johnson was 57.

A defensive lineman, Johnson was a four-time Pro Bowler and a two-time first-team All Pro.  He qualified for the annual all-star game from 1979 through 1982.

Johnson was a member of the 1981 Chargers, which lost in the AFC title game at Cincinnati, in frigid conditions.

30 responses to “Former NFL defensive lineman dies following stroke

  1. Sorry to hear this. I really loved those Charger teams back then. With Louie Kelcher , Leroy Jones, and Fred Dean, they had a pretty good D-line. Too bad they traded Dean to SF for next to nothing because their D definitely suffered for it. The 81 Chargers/Dolphins playoff game is still one of my favorite memories as a football fan.

  2. Wow. Was he not just on the chargers 50th aniversary team. My condolences go out to his family.

  3. Sad to hear. The last line is a little out of place??? Why didnt you also include that “he was a member of the 1980 Charger team that lost to the Raiders in the AFC championship game in Balmy San Diego” or any other low lights of his career.

  4. Never was able to see him play (i was 2 when he retired) but it doesn’t matter, a 57 year old dying is terrible, especially a good man.
    RIP good sir.

  5. @rraider
    Way to reinforce the notion that Raiders’ fans are douche bags. Just in case there were any doubts.

  6. Peace and strength to his family. “Big Hands” is still one of the best NFL nicknames ever and he was such a tremendous player. Those early 80’s Chargers defenses were terrible, but he always brought it and was always a bright spot on that side of the ball.

  7. For some reason, when i heard “Big Hands” i instantly remembered his nickname, although i know nothing about him or his career….57 is way too young……RIP

  8. @BigTex
    See rraider’s statement “The last line is a little out of place???”. He appears to have been throwing a barb at Florio for including such a stupid reference at the end of then original post. ….not suggesting the Raider game should have been mentioned instead. Re-read again. Slowly this time. [Pause] Make sense now?

  9. Bummer!
    He was a monster on that 84′ 49er Team. Especially thru out those Playoffs & the 85 SB. He beat the hell out of Marino. RIP my Brother.

  10. steroids.
    whenever an ex steeler player dies, its what the morons say…everyone had access to them back then, think about it.

  11. My point is, there’s no reason to comment about anything other than the much too early loss of a great man/player/person. Save the other comments for the rumors. That’s all.

  12. Great player on a great team(79-83)–God when I hear that name it brings me back to when I first started watching football…RIP

  13. I saw Big Hands play in college and always remember him because one of my good friends at UH was an offensive lineman and had to go head-to-head with Johnson during parts of the game. He got his butt whipped a few times and of course we all reminded him about that when we were enjoying a few cold ones while in college. He was a man among boys that is all I have to say when I saw him in college and knew he’d be a good NFL player. When players like him pass away, it reminds us of our own mortality.

  14. Seems like there have been an excess of deaths of former NFL players over the past three or four months.
    Rest in peace, Gary. May our Lord bless and comfort all who are mourning.

  15. The 81 Chargers are the team to ignite my passion for football… RIP to Big Hands, gone but never forgotten.
    Best wishes to his family.

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