Cincinnati Bengals: 30 greatest players in franchise history

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C. (1968-79). Bob Johnson. 10. player. 56.

  • Cincinnati Bengals No. 54 jersey retired (1978)
  • First-ever draft selection by Bengals (No. 2 overall in 1968)
  • 1968 AFL All-Star
  • 154 career games, 136 career starts

It’s always wise to build a football team from the inside out. The Bengals were a brand-new franchise in the AFL and they did exactly that by drafting center Bob Johnson No. 2 overall out of Tennessee in 1968.

Obviously, Johnson was the first-ever player the Bengals drafted. Interestingly enough, he would be the last of the inaugural 1968 squad to stick with the team. He played his entire 12-year NFL career with Cincinnati before retiring in 1978.

Johnson was named an AFL All-Star as a rookie in 1968. Though he never played in another glorified exhibition in his professional career, Johnson was a rock on the Bengals offensive line throughout the 1970s. He made 136 career starts in 154 games with Cincinnati.

Johnson would be responsible for snapping former Pro Bowl quarterback Ken Anderson the pigskin during the first half of his Bengals career. While the Bengals would have their best teams in franchise history in the 1980s, Johnson in a way set the tone for the many great offensive linemen who followed him in Willie Anderson, Max Montoya, Anthony Muñoz and Andrew Whitworth.

Before his final game in 1978, the Bengals would retire Johnson’s No. 54 jersey. To date, it is the only jersey that has been retired by Bengals organization. While the Bengals do not have a team hall of fame or a ring of honor, Johnson’s retired jersey may be the greatest honor any former Bengals player has ever received by the organization.

While Johnson was ready to get on with his life, he did come back for one last season in 1979 to help out as a long snapper after new center Blair Bush succumbed to injury. Johnson would serve as a football analyst on some Bengals games during the early 1980s.