March 2, 2017

A.J. paved the way

Alondra Johnson with the Calgary Stampeders in 1992 (Photo by Scott Grant)

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Stampeders’ 1992 Grey Cup championship squad.

In the coming months, we’ll be taking a look back at the squad that snapped the Stamps’ 21-year title drought and the cast of characters responsible for the conquest.

Our subject today is one of the great linebackers in CFL history, Alondra Johnson.

Alondra Johnson
West Texas State
In 1992:
27 years old, 2nd season with Stamps; 4th in the CFL
Regular season:
Team-leading 95 tackles as well as five sacks and two fumble recoveries
Combined nine tackles in West final and Grey Cup

On the offensive side of the ball, the defining moment that preceded the Stamps’ 1992 Grey Cup victory was the signing of quarterback Doug Flutie.

On defence, it was undoubtedly the acquisition of undersized overachiever Alondra Johnson. After two years with the BC Lions, the linebacker joined the Stamps in 1991 and became the heart and soul of the Calgary defensive unit. Johnson was a West Division all-star and the Stamps’ leading tackler during the 1992 championship season.

Alondra Johnson with the Calgary Stampeders in 1992 (Photo by Scott Grant)

Alondra Johnson in 1992 (Photo by Scott Grant)

“It’s when I came to Calgary that I realized I had found a home,” says Johnson. “It’s when Wally (Buono) invited me to Calgary to become a player with the Stampeders. The city embraced me and I think that was a defining moment in my career.”

Buono, who coached Johnson for 12 of his 13 seasons with the Red and White, was at a loss years ago when asked what made the linebacker such a force.

“Who knows what happens inside him when he steps on the field?” Buono shrugged. “A.J.’s a very aggressive individual and he doesn’t know how to play any other way. When he’s effective, he’s running through people.”

“When I first came to Canada,” said Johnson, “I just wanted to be the best linebacker I could be. I just wanted to be the best player I could be. I didn’t plan the success that I had but I knew that I could become very good at my position if worked hard, trained hard and remained disciplined as far as getting myself ready to play. I knew that if I did all of that, then nothing but good things would happen. That’s the route that I took. I worked very hard for the success that I had. It didn’t come easy, I can tell you that. But it was well worth it.”

Defensive lineman Alondra Johnson vs the Eskimos

Alondra Johnson playing against the Eskimos

From the moment Johnson joined the club in 1991, the Stamps posted 11 straight winning seasons and made six trips to the Grey Cup championship game, winning three titles including that 1992 title.

“We had a very good nucleus of guys who stuck around year after year,” said Johnson. “We went out and we expected to win.”

Johnson remained with the Stamps through the 2002 season – he’s fifth on the Stamps’ all-time list with 214 regular-season games played – and completed his CFL career with a short stint in Saskatchewan. He was enshrined into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2009 and added to the Stamps’ Wall of Fame in 2010.