Friend Encounters is a weekly series featuring friends who met celebrities.
Thomas "Pepper" Johnson played 13 seasons in the NFL, the first seven with the New York Giants. He won two Super Bowls with the Giants. After retiring as a player, Johnson began coaching, first with the New England Patriots for 13 seasons, winning three more Super Bowls.
Johnson's aunt gave him the "Pepper" nickname, when she saw he put black pepper on his corn flakes. Johnson's son Dionte went undrafted, but signed with the Arizona Cardinals. An injury ended his NFL dream though.
Johnson's first year in the NFL was 1986, after my Chicago Bears won the Super Bowl. Johnson was not on the earlier teams who the Bears crushed on their way to greatness. Unfortunately for the Bears, they started collapsing after the Super Bowl, just as Johnson was starting to blossom.
It is only fitting that I feature Larry Freda with Johnson. East coaster Larry is a huge NY sports fan. I am sure it was a thrill for him to meet Johnson. Larry has met many celebrities and athletes, but I think the NY ones are extra special to him.
Larry Freda and Pepper Johnson in Woodbridge, NJ-July 2013.