Editors Note: This post has been updated from it’s original posting with information from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Former Florida Gators football player Chris Johnson was found dead outside of Pittsburg Friday night. The Ocala Star-Banner was able to confirm the death with Trinity Catholic athletic director Tommy Bond and Duquesne associate athletic director David Saba.
On Sunday, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette was able to confirm Allegheny Country medical examiner’s office that the death was a result of a self-inflicted gun shot wound and the death has been ruled a suicide.
He was 22 years old.
Johnson played two seasons with the Gators before transferring to Duquesne University in 2013.
He recorded 19 tackles and recovered a fumble as a linebacker and playing special teams for the Gators. During the 2012 season, Johnson was listed as a running back and accumulated 35 yards on five rushes.
Following the 2013 Sugar Bowl, Johnson transferred to Duquesne in Pittsburgh.
As a Duke he amassed 104 tackles, two fumbles and two interceptions.
Johnsons career line on GatorZone.com reads simply:
“Key member of the kickoff unit who played in 26 games for the Orange and Blue…Enrolled as a safety, switched to linebacker for the 2011 season and moved to running back in the Spring of 2012…Transferred in January of 2013.”
But the memory of the one they called “Juice” is much more lasting.
Former Gators linebacker Josh Evans was still struggling to find words on Sunday morning. Johnson was so much more than a former teammate to Evans and he is now tasked with coming to the reality of losing a friend.
“It’s crazy”, marveled Evans. “He was like a little brother to me. He was in our room, with me and Jelani [Jenkins] like every day, literally every day he came over, hung out with us, played games. And it was just more than football.”
Conversations about more than football led to a deep respect for Johnson, that Evans tells GatorCountry was mirrored by nearly everyone he met.
“A loving person man, he got along with everybody. Juice was the type of person, that once you got to know him, found out where he came from, you had a lot of respect for him.”
He came from Ocala, Florida where he was a three star safety for John Brantley III and Trinity Catholic High School. During his senior season, Johnson helped lead the Celtics to a state title.
He then followed his heart to Gainesville where he made a lasting impact. It’s that impact and way of life that Evans will remember the most. More than the afternoons hanging out, more than their last phone call joking about a guy Johnson played against, and more than any play he made on the field.
“Juice…he was always filled with energy. He was always hyped and brought that passion and excitement to whatever, whether it was workout or practice, always full of energy.”
Former offensive lineman Jon Halapio agreed, telling GatorCountry, “[The thing] I’ll remember the most about Juice is the smile he had. The only dude that would be smiling before practice. Honestly his smile, his joyful and positive attitude. It rubbed off on us in 2012 big time.”
That passion is what endured him to many and what makes this time that much more difficult for his former teammates and friends. Many of them took to social media over the weekend to mourn the passing of “Juice”.