Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Del Rio Gave Early Glimpse of Potential

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Del Rio Gave Early Glimpse of Potential

Article excerpt

Byline: Mark Woods, Times-Union sports columnist

SAN DIEGO -- Reporters have spent much of the week trying to lead the two starting Super Bowl quarterbacks on a trip down a memory lane, which in the case of Oakland's Rich Gannon and Tampa Bay's Brad Johnson is a long and winding road with more dead ends than a cemetery.

One of the frequent tour stops: Minnesota, 1992.

That's where Gannon and Johnson first met. Gannon was in his sixth and, as it turned out, final season with the Vikings. Johnson was a rookie, a ninth-round draft pick out of Florida State. To get to San Diego, each has bounced around the NFL, following a maze-like journey. But that remains the one common place and time. Minnesota, 1992.

So this week they have been answering questions about that training camp, that season, that team.

And you want to know something both remember?

One of the guys who took charge of that team, helping to lift the Vikings out of a two-year slump -- 6-10 in 1990, 8-8 in 1991 -- and to an 11-5 record in 1992, was a new addition to the defense. A 29-year-old linebacker who had come from Dallas as a free agent.

Jack Del Rio.

"He was a leader of the team," Johnson said of the Jaguars' new head coach. "I mean, he was a true leader. Not just a guy who made plays, or a guy that got a lot of attention. He grabbed guys by the throat and made them run sprints all the way across the line. He was into details. He always had a book in his hands. He always had a pencil and was taking notes. He always did the extra work. I didn't realize he'd be a head coach this fast, but he's taken the right steps . . . and he'll be a tremendous coach."

Johnson spent four seasons practicing against Del Rio in Minnesota. Gannon only was with him for that one. He headed for Washington after one of Del Rio's college buddies, Sean Salisbury, was given the Vikings' starting quarterback job. …

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