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Billy “White Shoes” Johnson: Widener Player’s “Funky Chicken” Dance Inspired NFL Celebrations

October 8, 2010

Johnson Celebrates a Widener Touchdown

I grew up in rural Georgia watching the Atlanta Falcons on Sundays, so when I started at Widener more than a year ago it sparked memories to see the red helmet and jersey of Billy “White Shoes” Johnson displayed in the university’s Wellness Center.   Johnson,  a lightning fast receiver and return man extraordinaire, starred for the Falcons from 1982-1987, and ultimately served 14 seasons in pro football.  The ESPN video below ranks him as the third greatest returner of all time.   I vividly remember his touchdown celebration known as the Funky Chicken — one commentator called it “The greatest celebratory dance in the history of the NFL.”  The dance, in fact, originated in a Widener uniform. The Sacramento Bee wrote that his first performance followed a touchdown against Drexel in 1971.

If  any alumni or other Widener fans from Johnson’s years at Widener recall his touchdown celebrations,  please post your memories below in the comments field.  And enjoy the video — it includes the Funky Chicken at the 2:35 mark.  — Sam Starnes, Editor

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2 comments

  1. I saw every home game that White shoes played. I was a young kid around 10 to 12 years old. My dad taught night school at Widener from that time until 1993.

    My best White Shoes memory was a rare night game. I can not recall the opponent, but Billy ran back a punt return for a touchdown. As he reached the 20 yard line he was almost running backwards taunting the other team. The other didn’t like this one bit as they chased Billy into the end zone and continued to run him down until both teams came running on the field in defense.

    He was great to watch and the Houston Oilers became my favorite team because of him.

    Thank you Billy for many great childhood memories.


    • I have many fond memories of Billy Johnson. My father was the offensive line coach at Widener when Billy attended. One memory is especially vivid. After a home game, I think I was 11 years old at the time, I went down on the field to see my dad and on the way found a paper football. I quickly went over to Billy where he was surrounded by family and friends and asked him to autograph said football. Excitedly, I ran to my father and showed him the autograph saying that Billy Johnson would be a pro-football player and famous one day. He just chuckled and replied, “Oh honey, Billy is a really great player, but he is just too small to play pro ball.”

      I continued to tease my father about how much more I knew about football then he.



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