Former Steelers wide receiver Malcolm Johnson wore jersey number 83 during his time in Pittsburgh but 17 is the number he recalls most vividly from those days.
Hall of Famer Jerome Bettis took young Johnson under his wing when he was drafted out of Notre Dame in 1999. No coincidence that Bettis is a Golden Domer himself.
“Jerome reminded me that as a player you only get 17 paychecks a year.” recalls Johnson. “If you make it to the next season…and JB was clear with the ‘if’…. then u only get another 17…. IF you make it. He told me I should prepay my rent, car insurance, and all the basics with those 17 checks. That was sound advice. It was very real and tempered with those ‘ifs’. That helped me a lot.”
Johnson lasted fewer than two seasons with the Steelers and he finished his NFL career with the Jets in 2000. Fortunately, his post-NFL profession has been a great deal longer and more productive.
“I was 25 when my playing days ended,” Johnson says “I decided to enroll in the MBA program at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. It was the best investment in myself that I ever made.”
Johnson used his new MBA degree first to land a job with Bank of America in southern California in real estate finance. He was with BofA for six years and then moved to JP Morgan Chase where he began in 2012 working on large-scale development projects such as shopping centers and apartment complexes. He was named Executive Director for Community Development Banking at JP Morgan earlier this year.
“Football was a great steppingstone for my current field,” the 41-year old Johnson explains. “It’s all about teamwork and communication and being able to deliver. It was always a fight for me to stay on the roster in the NFL. That helped prepare me for competition outside of football.”
Malcolm Johnson’s name may not be as recognizable as that of John Stallworth, Lynn Swann, Andy Russell and dozens of other outstanding Steelers. However, his post-career success is consistent with those men who played before him in the City of Bridges.
We at NFL Alumni wish Malcolm Johnson continued success. He’s done pretty well for a guy who started with only 17 paychecks a year!