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 football coach on Wednesday. Johnson, who served as IMG Academy’s defensive coordinator last season and was working as the program’s interim head coach, takes over for Bobby Acosta, who left for the same position at Del Valle (Texas) High School in April.
Johnson played 13 years in the NFL, the first seven of which came with the New York Giants. Johnson then finished out his career with the Cleveland Browns, Detroit Lions and New York 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 in the NFL. 13 of those years came with the New England Patriots, working in a multitude of roles under head coach Bill Belichick and adding three more Super Bowl rings to his trophy 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, according to 247Sports. 30 players currently on IMG Academy’s roster have received at least 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 also scheduled to take on American Heritage in a high-profile preseason showdown in August.