Derrick Johnson (DJ), a former Texas Longhorn and Kansas City Chiefs linebacker, has returned to his Texas roots. The Waco native moved back to Austin in 2019 after a successful 13-year career in the NFL to give back to his community through his non-profit Defend the Dream Foundation.
DJ was the 15th pick in the first round of the 2005 NFL Draft by the Kansas City Chiefs. In 13 seasons with the Chiefs, Johnson earned four Pro Bowls, two All-Pro selections, Pro Bowl Defensive MVP, and he retired as the Kansas City Chiefs’ all-time leading tackler in franchise history.
DJ played for Mack Brown at The University of Texas at Austin. During his time at UT, DJ won the Bronko Nagurski Trophy for being the Nation’s top defensive player, the Butkus Award for being the Nation’s top linebacker, and the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year. Additional honors earned by DJ include: University of Texas Athletics – Hall of Honor, Texas Sports Hall of Fame, and Missouri Sports Hall of Fame.
In 2012, while playing for the Chiefs, DJ founded the non-profit, Defend the Dream Foundation, which provides low-income and inner-city youth the opportunities and resources to reach their full potential in school and in life. In partnership with Kansas City Public Schools and Scholastic, Defend the Dream Foundation transformed libraries and unused areas in 16 elementary schools into reading areas called DJ’s Discovery Dens. The non-profit also donated over 25,000 children’s books to those schools.
Launching its first Austin outreach project in 2022, Defend The Dream Foundation is working with the Austin Ed Fund to update the library at Oak Springs Elementary School. The Foundation is investing nearly $50,000 into the school library by installing a multi-functional space for students to read and learn. The Foundation will donate new flexible furniture, bookshelves, and thousands of new books to update the current collection and better reflect the diverse student population.