Few remember Howard W. "Smiley" Johnson's exploits on the football field. But his name holds a special place of honor at two of the nation's most storied football programs.
Johnson was a star fullback and guard at the University of Georgia from 1937 to
1939. He then spent two seasons as a guard for the Green Bay Packers before joining the Marine Corps soon after the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941.
Johnson is one of three former NFLers killed in the battle for Iwo Jima in February-March 1945. He was posthumously awarded a Gold Star for his actions on Iwo Jima. In fact, his concern for the welfare of his own men may have contributed to his death. After getting hit by a shell, Johnson directed a corpsman to help others who had also been hit. He died of his wounds while those others were being aided.
His wife Marie's struggles to raise a child without a father were chronicled in the book "Roads and Crossroads."
A year earlier, Johnson earned a Silver Star for "conspicuous gallantry" during the battle for Saipan.
Johnson's memory is honored each year during college bowl season. The outstanding lineman in the Peach Bowl is presented with the Smiley Johnson Award.
Also read about: