IMG Academy did not have to look too far to find its next head coach.
Former NFL linebacker and five-time Super Bowl champion Pepper Johnson was named IMG Academy’s next head coach on Wednesday. Johnson, who served as IMG Academy’s defensive coordinator last season and was working because the program’s interim head coach, takes over for Bobby Acosta, who left for an equivalent position at Del Valle (Texas) high school in April.
Johnson played 13 years within the NFL, the primary seven of which came with the NY Giants. Johnson then finished out his career with the Cleveland Browns, Detroit Lions, and NY Jets, racking up two Pro Bowl appearances and two Super Bowl rings before wrapping up his playing career.
We are very happy to announce that heading into our 2021 football season current interim coach Thomas “Pepper” Johnson will permanently fill the Head Coach position for our National Team.
Pepper played 13 seasons in the NFL, including seven years with the New York Giants! pic.twitter.com/LgSMzcM9qs
— IMG Academy Football (@IMGAFootball) June 23, 2021
Johnson got into coaching after his playing days ended, spending 16 years within the NFL. 13 of these years came with the New England Patriots, working during a multitude of roles under head coach Bill Belichick and adding three more Super Bowl rings to his case. Johnson then joined Rex Ryan’s staff with the Bills in 2014 and Todd Bowles’ staff with the Jets from 2015-16.
Johnson is now set to inherit an IMG Academy team fresh off a No. 1 finish in last year’s USA Today Super 25 and still loaded with talent. The Ascenders have 19 players ranked as a four-star recruit or higher, consistent with 247Sports. 30 players currently on IMG Academy’s roster have received a minimum of one FBS offer.
IMG Academy’s complete 2021 schedule has yet to be released, but the Ascenders are slated for high-profile matchups with La Salle of Ohio (Sept. 3), Our Lady Good Counsel of Maryland (Oct. 10), and St. Frances Academy of Maryland (Nov. 19). IMG Academy is additionally scheduled to require on American Heritage during a high-profile preseason showdown in August.