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Derrick Johnson Makes History, Becomes Chiefs All-Time Leading Tackler

Johnson makes history as he passes Chiefs great Gary Spani to become franchise’s all-time leading tackler

For the second year in a row, a Kansas City Chiefs all-time record has been broken.

Last year, against the San Diego Chargers in Week 7, running back Jamaal Charles became the all-time leading rusher.

And now, the Chiefs have another all-timer, but this one is on the other side of the ball.

Linebacker Derrick Johnson needed just 5 tackles against the Green Bay Packers to become the Chiefs all-time leading tackler, passing former great Gary Spani's previous record of 999.

Johnson broke the record with a tackle of running back James Starks midway through the third quarter.

"It's going to speak for itself," Johnson said this week of the record. "It's going to answer the questions if you're questioning if I'm tough, if I'm consistent and if I'm reliable. It's a blessing just to get to that point where you say, 'Man, I have a chance to be at the top of that list.'

"Regardless of how many years I've been here, I get the chance to be at the top of that list. That's pretty awesome."

While it didn't happen at Arrowhead Stadium, the fact that it happened in a nationally televised game on Monday Night Football is still pretty special.

"It means consistency to me," Spani, the previous record holder, said. "Obviously, there is a consistency when you've had more tackles than anybody else. That's actually what I'm supposed to be doing, too, so there's a lot of people that helped me accomplish that.


"Kim Kramer and Bill Maas were two guys that took the double teams on the defensive line. Then you've got Art Still and Mike Bell as our defensive ends—that really helped as well."

Spani also mentioned former great and Pro Football Hall of Famer Willie Lanier may have had even more tackles than him, but that was before tackles were kept as a statistic.

Spani works as the Chiefs director of special events and has enjoyed watching Johnson develop as a player since being drafted in the first round out of Texas back in 2005 (No. 15 overall).

"It's been fun to watch him develop professionally," Spani said. "To grow not only as an athlete, but also as a football player. He was one of those guys I think I said a couple of years ago, he's had the body type and the athleticism to play a lot of years.

"If you're consistent, good things should happen. He has such a great nose for the football."

When asked about his record of 999 tackles and whether or not he'd prefer someone to go back and find a tackle somewhere that might have been missed to get him to that 1,000th tackle, Spani said he likes it right where it is.

"The actual 999 really means something to me, so it's a perfect number for me," Spani said with a smile.

A collection of photos from 2015 and the career of Chiefs all-time leading tackler Derrick Johnson.

Chiefs coach Andy Reid has been with Johnson for three years and respects the way the veteran goes about his business.

"He's one of the leaders," Reid noted. "He's not getting any younger and he keeps himself in great shape. People are going to forget about that part. I think discipline to keep yourself at the top of your game after playing as long as he's played is impressive."


Fellow linebacker and veteran Tamba Hali, who has played alongside Johnson for the past 10 years, couldn't be happier for his teammate.

"It's nice to see one of the guys you've been around with to be able to accomplish a goal like that," Hali said. "I'm happy for him."

In the bigger picture, the record might mean more to Johnson 20 years from now. He's been afforded the opportunity to sit atop the record books in the most recognizable defensive statistic, a skill that's taught from an early age of learning to be a football player—tackling the ball carrier.

To do it with an organization build upon a foundation of defensive stars makes the accomplishment even more special.

"It's a small circle of good and great linebackers and defensive players that have played here in Kansas City," Johnson explained. "To actually be a part of that group would be great."

Welcome to that group, D.J.

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