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MIAMI (CBSMiami) — Miami native Chad Johnson was an offensive lineman for the Liberty City Warriors long before his career as an All-Pro wide receiver.
Johnson began playing football when he was four years old in the program created by rap legend Luther “Uncle Luke” Campbell.
Johnson recently stopped by the CBS Local Studios in New York to talk about his childhood in Miami, his NFL career and a new docu-series called “The Warriors of Liberty City” produced by LeBron James and Maverick Carter.
The series follows the lives of kids and their families involved with the Liberty City football program.
“It was extremely important for us to have an outlet,” said Johnson. “Back in the 80s and early 90s, it was a war zone down in Miami. Luther Campbell came up with the idea of the Liberty City Warriors and that gave us a sense of freedom and a sense of peace.”
Johnson was one of the first players from Liberty City to make it to the NFL.
Other Liberty City natives in the NFL are Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman and New Orleans Saints quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.
While the program continues to churn out future NFL players, Johnson is concerned that the culture in the streets of Florida has changed.
“Back then we had structure. If you were an athlete coming up, the streets wouldn’t allow you to get involved in any of the riff raff they had going on. Today’s era is completely different because they bring you in and allow you to do wrong.”
While the Miami native faced several challenges in his road to the NFL, Johnson went on to become a 6x Pro-Bowl wide receiver and one of the game’s best pass catchers. In 2012, Johnson was briefly a member of the Miami Dolphins before getting released from the team due to an arrest.
“Being back home was fun. It was fun to play in front of those fans again,” said Johnson. “Unfortunately, due to my irresponsible mistakes, my time was cut short. I would’ve really enjoyed to finish off the right way.”
Today, Johnson is a parent and a mentor to the kids in the Liberty City Warriors program. The former NFL player is featured in the new docuseries that premieres Sunday, September 16 on Starz. Johnson hopes the documentary will be an eye-opening experience for people.
“There are a lot of people that are tired and going through similar situations. I think the series will help parents that are struggling. These parents have to understand that they are the center piece for their kids’ dreams.”