Bob Johnson


Tony Legnani learned about Bob Johnson from newspaper clippings his mother had sent him, while he was on active duty in Okinawa. It was early 1950s, and Johnson had moved from New Britain to Berlin and was a sophomore on the Berlin High football team. He would later play basketball and baseball for three years.

“I didn’t know him, but from the clippings I knew he was good,” Legnani said. He found out how good Johnson was while playing against him and with him in adult leagues years later.

“You couldn’t ask for a better guy,” Legnani said. “He was a good sport, good competitor in all sports. Never got mad. He’s someone you would like right away.’’

But back to the beginning. When Johnson showed up for football, coach Bill Gibney, a member the first BHS Athletic HOF class in 2010, saw something in Johnson and made him the quarterback. This surprised Johnson. The only football he had played in New Britain were pick-up games. No coaches. No rules. Helmets?

“I wasn’t looking to be a quarterback,” Johnson said. “I wasn’t a good passer. They had to find a place for me, I guess.” Legnani could have added Johnson was modest, too.

As a senior, Johnson helped lead BHS to a 6-0-1 record under coach Cliff Landry, a 2021 BHS Athletic HOF inductee. The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference recognized Berlin with a Merit Award as one of the top three Class S teams in 1955.

During a game that season at Simsbury, the Redcoats led but were stuck at their own 1-yard line. “I called a running play just to run the clock out,” Johnson said. “But everything fell right. I found a hole” — and finished off a 99-yard touchdown run. In an era when keeping scholastic statistics was rare, this one could not be forgotten.

As a basketball guard he helped Berlin reach a state quarterfinal in 1954-55; the team was 10-6 in his senior season.

Baseball may have been his best sport. As an outfielder he helped the Redcoats to the 1955 Class S title game, which they lost to Terryville, 9-3.

Now Johnson, 84, joins Legnani in the BHS Athletic HOF. Legnani, 91, was a member of the inaugural 2010 HOF class. He has been waiting for you.

Click here to make a nomination.

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