Wisconsin hires ex-Badgers center Al Johnson as RBs coach

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MADISON, Wis. — Former Wisconsin center Al Johnson has left a Division II head coaching position to return to his alma mater as the Badgers’ running backs coach.

Johnson filled a vacancy that was created after Gary Brown stepped away from coaching to take an off-field role with Wisconsin’s program. Brown coached Wisconsin’s running backs last season but didn’t accompany the team to the Las Vegas Bowl for medical reasons.

For the past four seasons, Johnson was head coach at East Central University in Ada, Oklahoma. East Central posted a 15-20 record in his tenure, including a 9-4 mark over the past two seasons.

“His experience as a head coach and in all facets of the offense will help us immensely,” Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst said Thursday in a statement.

Johnson played center for Wisconsin from 2000-02. He played on two Rose Bowl teams and was a 2002 finalist for the Rimington Trophy, given annually to college football’s top center.

He played seven seasons in the NFL and worked as a Wisconsin graduate assistant from 2016-17.

“I wouldn’t be where I am today or have accomplished the things I have in my career without the people at Wisconsin who set me up for success,” Johnson said in a statement. “My goal is do the same thing for our players. When you add to that the opportunity to help our guys uphold the tradition we have at running back, this is a fantastic opportunity. I’m truly grateful.”