30+: Rory Johnson

Playing American football in Europe is not a long lasting career for most imports. Especially playing into your thirties, which is not even common amongst most professional sports. Though, there are those that are able to withstand the test of time and give everything they have to this game, for as long as they can. I myself am currently still playing at the age of 34 and understand the toll this game puts on your body and how hard it is to play into your thirties. In looking at those athletes that are able to beat Father Time, we will begin our series on international American football players over thirty years old with Rory Johnson.

Rory Johnson is a testament to longevity in Europe. Since coming to Europe in 2010, the Vicksburg, Mississippi native has been wreaking havoc on opposing offenses. The 33 year old defensive juggernaut has seen his fare share of football, on just about every level. Johnson earned junior college honorable mention All-America honors at Hinds Community College in Raymond, Mississippi, before transferring to the University of Mississippi for a season. After his collegiate career Johnson signed as an undrafted free agent in 2007 with the Green Bay Packers. Unfortunately his time was cut short in Green Bay, and then found brief work for the New York Giants and the CFL Edmonton Eskimos before coming to Europe.

Now in Europe for his tenth season, Johnson has only played in Berlin, Germany. In all ten seasons, Johnson played for the Berlin Rebels nine of them, with one season being played for the Berlin Adler in 2014. Currently still playing for the Rebels, Johnson plays between Defensive End and Mike Linebacker. He was kind enough to share his story and how he has lasted so long overseas.

Photo: Christian Goslar


What do you feel are your greatest attributes in football?
That I am a leader and I have been both the star on the team as well as a role player. The intensity I play with is hard to match.

What are some football accolades you are most proud of?
In high school I was the top player in Mississippi, listed as Parade All American Honorable Mention. Sophomore year in college I was Mississippi JUCO Defensive Player of the Year in 2005. My second start at ole miss I was SEC player of week with 16 tackles, 3 forced fumbles, 2 fumbles recovered. Professionally, in 2014 being the Eurobowl Champion.

Do you have a favorite team you played on or a particular season you played in?
My favorite year was 2014 with the Berlin Adler when we won the Eurobowl against the New Yorker Lions 20-17.

Is there a negative experience with a team or season you had?
The only negative the team lost funding so it was like I was playing for free.

What has aided in your longevity in football?
I think what has helped me a lot is I haven't had any injures really and I watch what I eat and try my best to stay healthy. As well, changing my tackling style from trying to kill people every tackle, to now rather making the good safe tackle.

Your Journey

How many countries have you traveled to while playing overseas?
I have been in 5 countries in Europe.

Do you have a favorite country you have visited while overseas?
My favorite country by far is Germany. Ich bin ein Berliner.

Do you have a country that you have visited that is your least favorite?
I have nothing negative to say about any country. Everywhere has its on flavor and style.

Best memory outside of football while playing overseas?
The best is the bonds I have made with people.

Any regrets or things you wish you would have done different?
Mostly just how my attitude was when I was younger. Back then you think you know everything, but have barley lived life.

Your future plans once your playing career has finished?
After I am done playing I want to start coaching more. I have started going to different places in Germany working at tackling camps. Seeing people who want to learn makes me feel good.

Advice for future generations that would like to play as long as you have?
My best advice is to play hard like it’s your last game and always stay strong no matter how good you are, be humble.

Brian Casey