A word of advice to chemical engineering students at New Mexico
State: If you're ever summoned to the office of the department
head, Dr. Charley Johnson, don't use the old excuse "I didn't
have time to do my homework because I was too busy." You can look
over Johnson's shoulder to see why it won't work.
On the bookcase crammed with volumes on the theories of
thermodynamics and the properties of plastics are the 1959 and
'60 Sun Bowl MVP trophies he won quarterbacking New Mexico State,
while working toward his bachelor's degree in chemical
engineering. Near the photos of his family are his master's and
doctoral diplomas from Washington University (Mo.), the first of
which he earned while playing for the St. Louis Cardinals and the
second while with the Houston Oilers.
In fact, after he joined the Cardinals as a 10th-round draft pick
in 1961, Johnson didn't have much use for sleep. His day started
at 5:15 a.m., when he wrote a commentary that he delivered on a
St. Louis radio station at 8. Following the broadcast he went to
classes at Washington, carrying his playbook with his schoolbooks
(including one entitled Transport Phenomenon and Chemical
Engineering). Around noon he headed to practice and afterward
back to class. "I don't sleep much, but I sleep hard," Johnson
said at the time.
In 1964 he led the Cardinals to their best record in 16 years
(9-3-2) and topped the NFL in pass attempts (420), completions
(223) and passing yards (3,045). He was traded to Houston in 1970
and to the Denver Broncos in '72. While in Denver he led the team
to the first winning season in its 14-year history (7-5-2 in
Upon retiring from football in 1975, Johnson, who grew up in Big
Spring, Texas, moved from the football field to the oil field. He
was an engineering consultant and a salesman for a natural gas
compressor company in Houston before starting his own company,
Johnson Compression Services Inc., in 1981. Eighteen years later
he was contacted by his alma mater about interviewing for the
department head job.
Johnson, 64, lives in Mesilla, N.Mex., with Barbara, his wife of
45 years; they have two children, Craig, 40, and Jill, 38. His
principal goals at New Mexico State are to raise money for
research and improve the curriculum. Most of all he's happy to be
giving something back to the school that helped pave his way to
success. "I realize that without the scholarship," he says, "I
wouldn't have had much of a chance." --Melissa Segura
COLOR PHOTO: WALTER IOOSS JR PASSING GRADE Johnson (12) earned his master's while playing for the Cardinals.
COLOR PHOTO: CHIP SIMONS [See caption above]
COLOR PHOTO: MARVIN E. NEWMAN [See caption above]
Formerly one of the NFL's top passers, Johnson heads the chemical
engineering department at New Mexico State.