Buff Nation awoke to sobering news on Wednesday with the passing of a beloved football star from the early 1990s glory years.
On Tuesday night, multiple reports out of North Carolina confirmed the death of former Colorado receiver Charles E. Johnson. He was 50.
Johnson had been working as an assistant athletic director at Heritage High School in Wake Forest, N.C. A cause of death has not been released, but a report posted on Wednesday morning by the CBS affiliate in Wake Forest said a police investigation has been initiated after a welfare check at a hotel in Raleigh ended with the discovery of a body. The report noted there was no preliminary signs of foul play.
Johnson was a freshman on the Buffs’ 1990 national championship team but emerged as a star as an upperclassman in 1992 and 1993, recording 57 receptions in each of those seasons for a combined 2,231 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Johnson remains prominent in the CU record book. Johnson still ranks sixth all-time for the Buffs in receiving yards (2,447), 13th in receptions (127), and ninth in receiving touchdowns (15). His 1,149 receiving yards in 1992 ranks third for the Buffs’ single-season marks, and his 1,082 yards a year later ranks fifth.
No CU player has posted more 100-yard receiving games than Johnson (12), and he owns five of the top 26 single-game receiving yard totals in team history, led by a career-best 182 yards (10th all-time) in a 24-24 tie at home against Oklahoma on Oct. 17, 1992.
Johnson was a first-round selection (17th overall) in the 1994 NFL Draft by Pittsburgh, where he later was reunited with CU quarterback Kordell Stewart. Johnson spent nine seasons in the league with the Steelers, Philadelphia, New England and Buffalo. He posted one 1,000-yard season, recording 1,008 yards for Pittsburgh in 1996, and caught a career-high 65 passes in 1998. Johnson was part of the 2001 Patriots team that won its first Super Bowl behind Tom Brady, and he finished his NFL career with 354 receptions for 4,606 yards and 24 touchdowns.
CU head coach Karl Dorrell, who was Johnson’s receivers coach for those standout seasons in 1992 and 1993, issued a statement on Wednesday:
“I was shocked and very distraught hearing the news about CJ. He was a great person, teammate, and had a infectious personality. He wore the pride and tradition of the Buffaloes on his sleeve. One of the best competitors I’ve coached at the WR position. Rest In Peace CJ.”