Gannon, Johnson took different paths to glory
By Sean Salisbury
Special to ESPN.com
Editor's Note: ESPN analyst Sean Salisbury was a teammate of both 2003 Super Bowl quarterbacks -- Oakland's Rich Gannon and Tampa Bay's Brad Johnson -- with the Minnesota Vikings in 1992
People ask me if it's tough to watch former teammates play in the Super Bowl, especially quarterbacks. Not really. Sure I wish I had made it to a Super Bowl, but if not me, then I am glad it's two guys I consider brothers. Plus the only reason I am not there now is that I gave all I had to those guys as the respected, wily veteran I was when I met them. So it isn't tough to watch them now because I helped get them there. Yes, I am a hero to the two starting quarterbacks in the Super Bowl. And yes, it's a heavy burden....
...I've never seen a player transform their game the way Rich has and I couldn't be more proud for him. He not only survived, he flourished.
Then there is Brad, who hasn't changed a bit since the first day I met him -- back when he was a draft pick barely getting by. It's ironic because in terms of personality, these two guys couldn't be more different. Rich is East Coast Philly and Brad is Black Mountain, N.C.
Brad could be the poster child for Southern gentlemen. He's the guy your wife wants to have over for dinner and your parents just adore. He comes from a wonderful family. I can just picture him as a kid: waking up and walking down a dirt road with a basketball to a wood backboard that's chipped. That's Brad to a tee.
He's "Aw Shucks," and Howdy Doody -- and I mean that with great affection. Since the day he walked into training camp, he had big ears. And I mean that figuratively. He listened to everything. Brad would sit in meetings and not say a word; just absorb information.
And on the practice field, he'd go out and get the job done. He was just a kid trying to make it. Brad has big, strong arms. And despite having a great deep ball, he'd always go for the easy completion. He just wanted to play things safe and go for the quick checkdown.
Of course, we kidded him and called him, "Checkdown Charlie." Which was only second to "Bull," a nickname he received at Florida State when he shaved his head and bore a striking resemblance to the bailiff on the TV show "Night Court."
To this day, he hasn't changed a bit. If you asked Brad what he wanted to do with his life, he'd tell you he'd hang it all up and become a high school basketball coach (still says so on his website). That says a lot about the man he is.
It's ironic: Rich's career took twists and turns while Brad's was always on course, yet they simultaneously reached the same destination, Super Bowl XXXVII.