BLACKSBURG – The Virginia Tech athletics department announced today that the football practice fields between the Jamerson Athletics Center and Lane Stadium will be renamed the Steve Johnson Practice Fields in honor of the former Tech player who recently made a $1 million pledge toward the construction of a new indoor football practice facility.
This new facility, to be built on a site yet to be determined, will be used by the Hokies’ football team, and plans call for an artificial turf surface and for the facility to be tall enough to allow for punting and kicking. The Hokies’ current indoor facility, Rector Field House, will be renovated and used primarily by Tech’s track and field programs, along with the women’s lacrosse and men’s and women’s soccer teams.
The costs for the project have yet to be determined as well, but Tech officials estimate the costs to be between $20-$30 million.
“It will be an honor for our team to work on the Steve Johnson Football Practice Fields,” Tech coach Frank Beamer said. “For former players to give back to the program is very appreciated, and to see former players have success in their lives is gratifying. This gift is special for a lot of different reasons.”
Johnson, a native of Huntsville, Ala., and longtime contributor to the Tech program, lettered at Tech as a tight end from 1984-87. He caught four passes as a freshman for 83 yards and a touchdown, and as a sophomore, he hauled in nine passes for 109 yards and a score. He burst onto the scene as a junior in 1986 when he caught 33 passes for 391 yards and three touchdowns. In 1987, he hauled in a team-leading 38 passes for 475 yards and three touchdowns, and he finished his career sixth on the school’s all-time list for career receptions and eighth for touchdowns by a tight end (eight).
As a junior, Johnson helped the Hokies to the Peach Bowl, where they edged N.C. State 25-24 on a last-second field goal by Chris Kinzer. Johnson, who caught six balls for 54 yards in the game, hauled in a touchdown pass in the fourth quarter that gave Tech the lead. He’s also known for catching a touchdown pass in the third quarter of the Hokies’ 20-14 upset of Clemson at Clemson, S.C., that season.
The New England Patriots drafted Johnson in the sixth round of the 1988 NFL Draft, and Johnson spent two seasons with the Patriots. He played in 14 games during the 1988 season, starting three and catching one pass. He signed with the Dallas Cowboys as a free agent in 1990, but tore up his knee in a preseason game and was never on the Cowboys’ active roster. He retired from football shortly thereafter.
Johnson currently serves as president and owner of Bristol, Va.-based Johnson Commercial Development, one of the largest commercial developers in the southeastern United States. Johnson Commercial Development is currently developing one of the largest commercial projects in the country, the Pinnacle, a 1 million-square-foot upscale retail development under construction in Bristol, Tenn.
Johnson has contributed to other athletics department projects in the past. He previously contributed to support construction of the Merryman Athletic Facility, which includes a room for speed and agility training that also bears his name. He also is a member of the Ut Prosim Society, a select group of Virginia Tech's most generous supporters.
"It is a pleasure to have the Virginia Tech football practice fields named for Steve Johnson, who was one of our all-time greats as a tight end," Tech AD Jim Weaver said. "The Virginia Tech athletics department is deeply appreciative of this generous gift to the football program."
According to Johnson, the experience of playing football at the collegiate and professional levels helped prepare him to succeed in business.
"Athletics instill work ethic, dedication, drive, passion and persistence," Johnson said. "Those are qualities that contribute to being productive, whether the ball is snapped and you have to execute a play or you are at your desk and you have to execute in business. I have a deep sense of gratitude toward Virginia Tech. My pledge of support for the indoor practice facility was the right thing for me to do, and I'm glad I was able to do it."
No timetable has been given for the start date or the completion of the project. Fundraising for the facility is ongoing.
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