A native of Hawkinsville, Ga., Charles Johnson attended Hawkinsville High School, where he played defensive end in football and forward in basketball for the Red Devils. His impressive athleticism was easily seen, and he went on to the University of Georgia to pursue football. As a student-athlete, he studied child and family development while continuing as a defensive end for the Bulldogs. In 2007, Charles signed with the Carolina Panthers in the NFL.
In the NFL
En route to a Super Bowl appearance, Charles Johnson and the Carolina Panthers started the 2015 season with an incredible 14-0 record, and ended the regular season 15-1. Charles was sidelined for a portion of the season due to injury, but remained a vocal leader and captain of the team. After winning the NFC Championship, the Panthers fell to the Broncos 24-10 in the Super Bowl. Through nine professional seasons, Charles has posted 63.4 career sacks, placing him among the premier pass-rushers in the league. He sits at second all-time for the Panthers.
The Panthers also reached the playoffs in 2014, after winning the NFC South. During the regular season, Johnson totaled 8.5 sacks to lead the Panthers in that category for the fourth time in five seasons. He added two more sacks during the Panthers’ Wildcard Playoff win over Arizona. He was tied for 5th among NFL defensive linemen with 3 forced fumbles in 2014.
In the 2013 season, Charles and the Panthers went 12-4 in the regular season. Carolina eventually fell to San Francisco in the NFC Divisional Playoff. Charles tallied three solo tackles in the game. As the 2013 NFC South Champions, the Panthers went farther this season than any other Carolina team since 2008. Charles helped the Carolina defense earn a No. 2 overall ranking in the NFL against the run and overall. After tallying 11.0 sacks, he ranked tied for 11th in the NFL in sacks for the season.
In the 2012 season, Charles ranked second in the NFL with seven forced fumbles and sixth with a career-high 12.5 sacks. He led the Panthers in sacks for the third consecutive season. Under his leadership as one of the league's top pass-rushers, his team's defensive unit ranked 10th in the NFL and ninth in sacks per pass play this season.
Charles led Carolina in sacks and added 14 quarterback pressures in 2011. In the first eight games of the season, he had notched seven sacks.
Charles started in each of the Panthers’ 16 games in the 2010 season. He marked 11.5 sacks and 27 quarterback pressures. He was also just the 10th player in Carolina Panthers history to have 10 or more sacks in a single season. He notched sacks in six consecutive games, which tied the team record. He ended the season as the team’s No. 1 defensive lineman.
In 2009 and 2008, he recorded 4.0 and 6.0 sacks, respectively. His 6.0 sacks in 2008 ranked No. 2 on the Panthers. He also had a forced fumble and fumble recovery that season.
In his rookie season, Charles saw playing time in three games, two of which were starts, after starting the season on the inactive list for the first 13 games. He posted two tackles that season.
Dedication to Philanthropy
Growing up, Charles was always a part of a team and learned the value of teamwork early. He strongly believes this is an important and valuable skill that all kids should learn because it can help motivate them to believe in themselves. He credits his success to his learning experiences and understanding the importance of preparation, education and dedication.
Charles’ passion for philanthropy led him to launch the Charles Johnson Foundation in 2012, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing opportunities for under-served youth to reach their full potential through athletic, recreational, and educational programs and initiatives; and to provide support for single African American mothers through proven programs and initiatives.
The Foundation’s primary geographic service area has been Middle Georgia. As the signature initiative of the foundation, the annual Charles Johnson Foundation Sports Academy and Community Weekend is Charles' opportunity to give back to Middle Georgia youth and teach them life and team-building skills, in particular, how to say no to negative influences they may encounter.
In addition to his annual Sports Academy, Charles utilizes his foundation to make a difference in numerous areas of his local community, including:
- - The Charles Johnson Foundation issued a $25,000 challenge grant to the Pulaski County community, which matched the grant leading to $50,000 toward renovation of the Lumpkin Street School to serve as a future community center (see the “Giving Back” section on charlesjohnsonfoundation.org for more details on this project)
- - Charles awards annual scholarships for African American women to attend the Pulaski Tomorrow Leadership Program.
- -Charles has sent 120 students over three years to the annual Black College Expo in Atlanta. He provides transportation, cost of admission and food.
- -From 2012-2016, Charles has awarded $240,000 in college scholarships for 12 students. The two inaugural recipients of the scholarship program graduated from college in the spring of 2016. In 2016, Charles also expanded this program beyond Hawkinsville High School and presented two additional scholarships to senior student-athletes from area high schools.
- - Local donations, including a donation of 750 pairs of Nike shoes to the Pulaski County Schools Superintendent’s office