The Kansas City Chiefs announced that veteran linebacker Derrick Johnson is the recipient of the team's 2017 Ed Block Courage Award.
Dating back to 1983, the Ed Block Courage Award has annually honored one player from every NFL team who exemplifies commitment to the principles of sportsmanship and courage.
And for anyone who has ever spent any kind of time around Johnson knows he's the epitome of those characteristics. He has returned to the field after two separate torn Achilles' tendons over the past three seasons, and has also served as a team leader through the greatest five-year turnaround in franchise history.
"When you get hurt it sucks," Johnson said earlier this week. "You've got to work your way back and I worked my butt off. This was my second Achilles injury and being at the age I'm at, it was a blessing to come back from a season-ending injury and play at a high level. I had the chance to play with these young guys and I'm having fun.
"To win that award is big. It's something that you when you get hurt you mark that on your calendar like, 'Hey, at the end of the year, I want this.'"
Johnson worked with Chiefs' assistant athletic trainer Aaron Borgmann on both of his rehabs, and he credits Borgmann for helping get him back on the field.
"We did the same thing we did the first time because it worked so well," Johnson explained of his rehab. "We were like, 'Hey, this is the blueprint, let's do it all over again.' Of course, every injury is a little different even though it's the same one, but we worked our butts off."
"How many guys love the game so much that after one Achilles injury at his age, and then another one, want to work so stinkin' hard to get back that they go through that five-day-a-week grind for 6-8 months?" Chiefs' head athletic trainer Rick Burkholder explained. "It was amazing and inspirational to all the young guys and to me, who as an older athletic trainer in the league, see a guy's desire to play this game being so great that he would go through that—because he could've gotten the surgery and walked away from the game, and he would have been fine. That's a rarity in this league."
"I love him,' Chiefs' coach Andy Reid added of Johnson. "He comes to work like he's 20 years old every day. To watch him do simple things like just go through the bags and be able to appreciate doing that in whatever year he's in, whatever age he is. Just the attitude that he brings on a simple thing like that, it's amazing.
"He's one of those great ones that you love having."
Over the past five years under Reid, the Chiefs have won 53 regular-season games.
In the five previous years before Reid arrived, the Chiefs had won just 25 games, and Johnson's leadership was a big part of the turnaround.
In his career, Johnson has appeared in 182 games (169 starts), recorded more tackles than anyone in franchise history (1,262), and has also picked up 27.5 sacks, 14 interceptions, 77 passes defensed, 23 forced fumbles and eight fumble recoveries.
The award—named in honor of longtime Colts athletic trainer Ed Block, comes from a vote by the players.
"It's huge to see him get the award," Tamba Hali, a longtime friend and teammate of Johnson's, explained. "Again, the accolades are great, but the courage he has shown to come back and still run on those Achilles and prove to himself he can do it is huge."
Johnson is a four-time Pro Bowler (2011, 2012, 2013 and 2015) and was named the Defensive MVP of the 2014 Pro Bowl. A native of Waco, Texas, he was a unanimous All-America and Big-12 selection at the University of Texas. He was selected by the Chiefs in the first round of the 2005 NFL Draft.
Johnson and the NFL's other 31 Ed Block Courage Award winners will be honored at the 40th annual Courage Award Banquet in Baltimore on Saturday, March 10, 2018.