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Tuesday, February 11, 2003
Johnson dies at 43 from colon cancer
CLEVELAND -- Former Cleveland Browns linebacker Eddie Johnson, who was known as "The Assassin'' because of his hard tackles, died Jan. 21 after a two-year battle with colon cancer. He was 43.
Former teammates such as Hanford Dixon and Rickey Feacher held vigil at the hospital during his final hours.
"E.J. was always such a fighter,'' said Dixon, who was drafted with Johnson in 1981. "At one point yesterday he took off his oxygen mask and left it off for over an hour as if to send us a message: I will not go down without a fight.''
Many of Johnson's teammates rallied around him after he became ill, holding benefits to help pay for his medical bills.
Johnson was a seventh-round draft pick from Louisville in 1981 and played for the Browns until 1990. The Browns played in three AFC championship games, all losses to Denver, during that time.
In 1984, he led the Browns in tackles with 172, even though he was an undersized linebacker, at 6-foot, 225 pounds.
Johnson started 59 of 60 games between 1984 and 1988 and had a string of 101 consecutive games played snapped in the 1988 opener.
Johnson became a minister in 1993 and had dedicated his life to helping others.
In fact, he felt that his cancer, first diagnosed in November 2000, was part of his calling.
"God wants to use me,'' he said shortly after the diagnosis.
While being treated for cancer in December at the Cleveland Clinic hospital, he signed autographs. He said in a television interview at the hospital, "Pray for me. Pray with me. But don't feel sorry for me.''
Johnson, who was divorced, is survived by his three children, Rahshan, 19, a quarterback at Georgia Tech; Elise, 15; and Elexis, 13.
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