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Life lessons from LeShon "Cowboy" Johnson

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LeShon Johnson is a trailblazer.  He made the "dark years" of NIU football somewhat satisfying.  The 1993 season where he rushed for 1,976 is still a school record that holds to this day.  Just think of the old Tecmo Super Bowl games, where the only plays were rush left and rush right.

LeShon finished 6th in the Heisman voting, higher than any other Huskie of all-time, even Michael Turner and Garrett Wolfe.  He was "The Man" toting the ball for NIU before the infamous streak 1,000 yard rushing seasons even started.  Heck, he was even Mike Vick before Mike Vick.

The man is a survivor, and bounced back from non-Hodgkins lymphoma to finish his pro career with the NY Giants in 1999 and the XFL Chicago Enforcers in 2001.  I refuse to acknowledge the fact he was drafted by the GB Packers though, though he did play for the AZ Cardinals after two years in the tundra.

After that, LeShon kind of fell off of the map.  His presence at homecoming sure turned some heads, even of a few players.  Maybe he should show up to all of our home games.  Bill Baker cracked me up talking about what he was up to and then John Sahly caught up with him last Saturday.

So what brings you back to NIU this weekend?

Actually I came back to do an art show, so I could get my degree [in art] and at the same time I get to watch some good football. It’s homecoming and I can see a lot of my old teammates.

That's right, LeShon Johnson will finally be getting his college degree after 16 years.  Congrats to him!  So what is he going to do with that degree?

How many pieces do you have in the show?

I have eight pieces. It’s crazy. After retiring from football I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. And I think I want to get into coaching so I was like ‘I’ve got to go back and get my degree until I start coaching.’

I would seriously shell out some cash to own one of those pieces.  I never knew an art degree could be a pre-req for a coaching career.

So are you going to be coaching and doing art?

No I’ll be doing coaching. I love art, don’t get me wrong, but you don’t make any money in art until you pass away, you know? I love art, but I like coaching a lot too and helping other kids. I can bring a lot to the table. I’ve been there. I’ve done that and I would love to share my experience with kids and tell them what I know.

There you have it Northern Illinois University Art Majors:

Unless you are playing college or pro ball, don't count on making any money while you are still alive.

Or so says LeShon Johnson, and you should listen closely to whatever he has to say.  Go ahead, chew it up, let that sink in, and please change your major.

I wonder what kind of pieces Cowboy has put together for the show...

Going back to the art, what are some of the pieces you have in the show?

I’m into Western art. I’ve got a couple of cowboy pictures, a couple of indian pictures, a couple of horses. I think they’re good but it’s not up to me to decide. I don’t know if it’s enough to get my degree or not but I really like a couple of the pieces. I think they’re good.

Is it just me or has the term "Indian" not been PC for a while?  There are a lot worse possible junctures here that I won't even get in to.  Original stuff.

The VCB probably has to re-stock half their store now that the Cowboy has come in to town.

Do you follow Northern [Illinois] a lot?

Yes, I do. I turn on SportsCenter. I’m watching the scoreboard and I always get excited when we win. I haven’t been here in six years, since 2003, I said then the next time I go back I’ve got to get some Northern Illinois clothes. I came here and I spent like $400 on sweatshirts and I’ve got some stuff that says NIU now.

This confuses me.  Why did he need $400 of NIU apparel?  I didn't even know you could spend that much money there.  And why didn't he just buy the stuff back in '03?

And last, but not least the Yordon Center gets a round of applause by the man, the myth, the legend.

Taking a look around at Huskie Stadium and how it’s changed since you played here, what goes through your mind?

It’s beautiful. I knew it was going to look good but I didn’t know it was going to look like this. I’ve been in a lot of college stadiums, I’ve been in a lot of pro stadiums and I’ve never seen a building as good as what I’ve seen today at Northern.