Highschool soccer: Defending champion IMG Academy hires former NFL linebacker Pepper Johnson as new head coach

Former NFL linebacker and five-time Super Bowl champion Pepper Johnson has been named the new football head coach to defend the MaxPreps National Champion IMG Academy (Bradenton, Florida). He served as defensive coordinator for the program last year, helping the Ascenders go 8-0 on their way to becoming the national number 1 leaderboard. Johnson is the fourth head coach in IMG Academy’s history after replacing Bobby Acosta, who took over the position of head coach in Del Valle, Texas. Expectations will remain high under Johnson at the IMG Academy. Although the Ascenders did not have a head coach at the time of publication, they were ranked # 2 in the preseason MaxPreps Top 25 released earlier this week.

Johnson played in the NFL for 13 years. He spent the first seven years of his career with the New York Giants, followed by stints with the Cleveland Browns, Detroit Lions and New York Jets. He was a two-time Pro Bowl selection (1990, 1994) and won two Super Bowls as a player.

We are very pleased to announce that the current interim coach Thomas “Pepper” Johnson will permanently fill the position of head coach of our national team at the beginning of our football season 2021.

Pepper played 13 seasons in the NFL, including seven years with the New York Giants! pic.twitter.com/LgSMzcM9qs

– IMG Academy Football (@IMGAFootball) June 23, 2021

After playing, Johnson trained in the NFL from 2000 to 2016. He was part of three Super Bowl winning teams with the New England Patriots (2000-13) before moving to the Buffalo Bills (2014) and the New York Jets (2015-16). He was also the Defensive Line Coach for the Memphis Express in 2019 and had a brief stint as Defensive Coordinator for the XFL’s Los Angeles Wildcats.

He takes over for a team that wants to repeat itself as national champion. The Ascenders have 19 players rated four-star recruit or higher by 247Sports and have more than 30 players who have received at least one FBS offer.

Former Rancho Verde (Moreno Valley, California) standout AJ Duffy takes over under the middle. The 2022 Florida State Commit is the number 7-rated quarterback, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings. During his first two years in Southern California, he threw over 5,500 yards and 66 touchdowns.

The Ascenders have not yet released their full schedule, but have notable games against La Salle, Cincinnati on September 3, Good Counsel (Olney, Md.) On October 8, and against No. Line up at 10 St. Frances Academy (Baltimore). on November 19th.

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