Hebert, Swilling remember Dome Patroller Vaughan Johnson

Mark Menard
December 14, 2019 - 8:03 am

During the Saints’ first heyday in the late 80s/early 90s, the backbone of the team’s success was the famed and dreaded Dome Patrol linebacking corps. Vaughan Johnson, who died Thursday night of complications from kidney disease, was one of the four pillars of that unit, and he’s remembered by his teammates as rough and rugged on the field but a special soul off the field.

WWL radio Sports Talk host Bobby Hebert was the quarterback of those Saints teams.

“The good die young,” Hebert said of Johnson. “That’s just a shame, only 57 years of age.”

Hebert remembers Johnson as a quietly-intimidating presence to opposing teams.

“He didn’t have the nickname ‘Meat’ for nothing,” Hebert said. “I mean, he was an animal. A gentleman off the field, but he was an S.O.B. on it. He was kind of like E.F. Hutton. He wouldn’t say much. Rickey Jackson and Sam Mills were more the spokespeople I guess. I remember in 1987, the strike year, and Vaughan was saying how we all have to stick together. And he hardly said anything but everybody was listening.”

Johnson’s fellow Dome Patroller Pat Swilling meanwhile remembers Johnson as a constant source of positivity

“All I could think about was what a wonderful guy he was,” Swilling said. “I guess if I said that to one of the offenses he played against or some of the running backs, they wouldn’t believe it. But he was a wonderful guy.

“I can’t remember one time that I’ve ever seen or heard him say anything negative about anything,” Swilling continued. “He was always an enthusiastic type of a guy. Always coming to work, loss, win or whatever, he always had something good to say about let’s get going again, let’s pick it up, let’s go.”

Swilling said the bond with Johnson as well as Rickey Jackson and the late Sam Mills was strong on and off the field.

“When I think about what made us special, man, it was our bond,” Swilling said. “You know, we truly even to this day loved each other. Between me, Rickey, Sam and Vaughan, man, there was just something special. I can’t ever remember either us being upset at either one of us.

“That’s how we thought about each other, and I’m not gonna lie to you. It’s tough because I love Vaughan Johnson. That’s my guy, and it’s not just football.”

Hebert and Swilling both shared their thoughts on WWL Radio Friday. You can hear the audio by clicking the podcast link.

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