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IMG Academy names Pepper Johnson new head coach

Defensive coordinator Pepper Johnson has ascended to the head coaching spot at one of the premier jobs in high school football.

IMG Academy has promoted defensive coordinator Thomas "Pepper" Johnson to head coach, the school announced this week.

Johnson replaces Bobby Acosta, who left to become the head coach at Del Valle High School in Texas. 

Johnson played linebacker at Ohio State and was a second-round selection of the New York Giants in 1986. He played for three more teams through 1998, then joined Bill Belichick's staff in 2000, where he remained in a variety of roles through 2013. He coached for the Buffalo Bills in 2014 and the New York Jets in 2015-16. 

After two years out of coaching, Johnson returned to the game as an assistant for the AAF's Memphis Express in 2019. He then served as the defensive coordinator of the XFL's Los Angeles Wildcats; both ventures shut down before their inaugural seasons completed. 

Johnson owns fiver Super Bowl rings -- two as a Giants linebacker, three as a Patriots assistant. 

He served as IMG's defensive coordinator in 2020, a year that saw the Ascenders finish with USA Today's No. 1 ranking. The elite boarding school lists 19 4-stars on its roster and 30 players with at least one FBS offer.