Former Saints linebacker Vaughan Johnson, part of legendary Dome Patrol, dead at age 57

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Vaughan Johnson

And then there were two.

Once upon a time, there were four fabulous linebackers who comprised one fabulous unit in New Orleans which combined to 18 Pro Bowl honors as members of the New Orleans Saints.

As of today, we are left with just half of that quartet.

One of the finest players in New Orleans Saints history has passed away.

Saints Hall of Fame inductee Vaughan Johnson died Thursday night in North Carolina after battling kidney disease for several years and lung failure most recently. Johnson was 57.

A native of Atlantic Beach, NC, Johnson starred at Morehead City West Carteret High School before starring at North Carolina State.

Johnson was chosen by the Jacksonville Bulls in the 1984 USFL Territorial Draft and played for the Bulls in 1984 and 1985.

Johnson was also chosen by the New Orleans Saints fifteenth overall in the 1984 NFL Supplemental Draft of USFL and CFL Players. He would join the Saints in 1986 after the USFL folded.

Johnson went on to star for the Saints for eight seasons (1986-93). He made the Pro Bowl four times, in four consecutive seasons (1989-92) as a member of the famed Dome Patrol, voted the best linebacker corps in NFL history by NFL Network, which consisted of Johnson, Rickey Jackson, Sam Mills and Pat Swilling. Johnson was named first team All-Pro in 1987, 1988, 1989, 1991 and 1992 by various entities.

Mills passed away in 2005 after battling cancer.

Johnson eclipsed 100 tackles three times with the Saints. He recorded 12 sacks, forced 11 fumbles, recovered five fumbles and had four interceptions.

Johnson hit so hard that he earned nicknames including “super collider” and “meat.”

Johnson was inducted into the Saints Hall of Fame in 2000. He was inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame in 2011 and was inducted into the Allstate Sugar Bowl Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame in 2017.

In recent years, Johnson overcame prostate cancer but encountered kidney and lung failure which he battled for the last few years of his life.

Johnson met his wife, Shirley Ardoin, while playing for the Saints. Shirley is from Eunice, LA. While living in North Carolina, the couple maintained an apartment in Kenner as well in recent years.

“He was one of the best players and best people I ever played with,” Jackson said. “He was never fighting with anyone, the most generous guy I ever knew. He loved everybody. He was the greatest teammate I ever had. He would hit so hard. He was a great player and a great man. I am truly going to miss him. He was my brother. He was more than a teammate. He was my great friend for life.”

“When I think about Vaughan, the enthusiasm he had for the game is something I will never forget,” Swilling said. “As tough as he was and would knock the stew out of you, he was always upbeat, with a smile and such a nice person. He was always a happy guy. I loved him. I played beside him here and he covered me year in and year out. He always said he had me and he always did.” He is going to be missed.”

Jim Mora brought Johnson to the Saints from the USFL.

“He was special,” Mora said. “He just go to overshadowed by the other three linebackers. He was an excellent player, very team oriented, totally unselfish. What mattered was how the team did, how his teammates did. He was just as good as the other three guys who got a little more publicity than he did. Everybody loved him on this team. He was a terrific person and a terrific player.”

Aside from his scowl and vicious demeanor on the field, Johnson was truly one of the nicest persons you could ever meet off the field. He was a friend whose faith was paramount in his life and sustained him in his most difficult times.

Funeral services have not been announced as of yet.

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Ken Trahan

Ken Trahan


Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Sports Media Association, National Football…

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