Virginia Tech’s 1986 Peach Bowl squad honored on plaza outside of weight room
Virginia Tech Athletics unveiled a refurbished plaza area outside of Tech’s football strength and conditioning facility that honors the 1986 Peach Bowl squad, the team that claimed the first bowl win in school history.
In addition to the permanent recognition of the 1986 Peach Bowl team, the renovated football weight room was also made possible thanks to the generosity of Steve Johnson and now bears his name.
Signage recognizing the 1986 Peach Bowl champions and Johnson has also been added to the main entrance of the facility.
Johnson caught a team-high six passes in that memorable 1986 bowl victory.
These improvements mark the latest in the series of renovations that are rapidly transforming the Merryman Center and the overall footprint of Tech Athletics on the Virginia Tech campus.
A former Tech football player who played from 1983-87, Johnson currently serves as president and owner of Bristol-based Johnson Commercial Development, one of the largest commercial developers in the Southeast. Johnson Commercial Development completed one of the largest commercial projects in the country, The Pinnacle, a 1 million-square-foot upscale retail development in Bristol, Tenn.
Johnson has long been appreciated for his continued philanthropic giving to Tech Athletics. In 2017, Tech unveiled a completely reimagined team meeting room that was funded by Johnson’s generosity. In 2013, he made a gift of $1,000,025 toward the construction costs of the award-winning Beamer-Lawson Indoor Practice Facility.
Athletics department officials named the football team’s practice fields in Johnson’s honor following his commitment to the indoor practice facility project. The Steve Johnson Practice Fields sit adjacent to the Beamer-Lawson Indoor Practice Facility.
The final $25 of Johnson’s pledge to the Beamer-Lawson was used to cover the cost of the football that he tossed into the stands after scoring a fourth-quarter touchdown in the Hokies’ 25-24 win over NC State in the 1986 Peach Bowl. Tech later won the game on Chris Kinzer’s field goal as time expired.
That bowl victory marked a turning point in the trajectory of Tech’s football program and that 1986 squad will be forever commemorated in Blacksburg.
Johnson is a member of the Ut Prosim Society, a select group of Virginia Tech’s most generous supporters.
“While in college, play and learn,” Johnson said. “After college, apply and earn. Once you are settled, be grateful and return. It’s that simple to me.”
The Huntsville, Ala., native caught four passes as a freshman for 83 yards and a touchdown, and as a sophomore, he hauled in nine passes for 109 yards and a score. He burst onto the scene as a junior in 1986 when he caught 33 passes for 391 yards and three touchdowns.
In 1987, he hauled in a team-leading 38 passes for 475 yards and three touchdowns. He still ranks third in school history among tight ends in terms of career receptions (84), receiving yards (1,058) and touchdowns (eight).
The New England Patriots drafted Johnson in the sixth round of the 1988 NFL Draft, and Johnson spent two seasons with the Patriots. He played in 14 games during the 1988 season, starting three and catching one pass. He signed with the Dallas Cowboys as a free agent in 1990, but injured his knee in a preseason game and retired from football shortly thereafter.
At that point, he started his path toward building his successful business career.