Jarret Johnson was viewed as a warrior on the Ravens defense, and now he's being honored for giving back to those who serve our country.
On Thursday, Johnson was announced as a finalist for the Salute to Service Award presented by USAA.
Johnson joins Chicago Bears tight end Jimmy Graham and Denver Broncos tight end Andrew Beck as finalist for the 11th annual award. The recipient will be recognized at NFL Honors on Feb. 10, days before Super Bowl LVI.
Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh previously took home the honor in 2013. Johnson wouldn't be the first former NFL player to receive the award, which comes with a $25,000 donation by the NFL to the award recipient's military charity of choice.
Johnson recently partnered with a service-disabled Air Force veteran to start a Black Rifle Coffee franchise in Niceville, Fla., where Johnson lives with his family. The area has six military installations within 20 miles of Niceville, meaning the surrounding community is largely linked to the military.
The franchise employs more than 40 veterans, active-duty servicemen and women, veterans' spouses and children of military members from all around the world. Other than Johnson, they are 100% employed by those linked with the military, including three in active duty.
"The people I hang out with are pretty much all military," Johnson said. "I've seen their sacrifice. I've seen them always pushing to serve.
"When somebody gets hurt or dies, unfortunately, whether it's in training or combat, the whole community is affected. That gives you a really close connection. It's not just seeing it on the news or hearing stories or reading a book, but actually living it, you see the sacrifice. It makes you appreciate it."
Johnson is an annual sponsor of SOF Missions, a non-profit that provides care to veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) with the goal of ending veteran suicide.
He organized, sponsored and participated in "The Murph Crossfit Exercise" on Memorial Day 2021. Though it originally started in Johnson's backyard, it has grown into a large community-wide event with more than 300 participants and raised nearly $14,000 for the EOD Warrior Foundation and Pipe Hitter Foundation. The workout consists of a 1-mile run, 100 pullups, 200 pushups and 300 air squats, followed by another 1-mile run, all while wearing a 25-pound weighted vest.
"Memorial Day in military communities is way different than in other communities. It's a very sad, very somber experience," Johnson said. "We're doing 'The Murph' and before we ran our second mile, each guy named someone who died that they were in combat with and told their story and what they meant to them. It had a big effect on me."
Johnson welcomed other former NFL players and teammates, including Haloti Ngata, Marshal Yanda, Phillip Rivers and Nick Hardwick to participate. The players spoke with special operations members about the transition from the service and found a lot in common.
"The first years of retirement of are really tough. You're trying to find your way and trying to find out who you are," Johnson said. "When my military buddies transition out of the military, it's just as tough if not tougher. We have a lot of connections in that aspect."
Johnson regularly provides leadership development and positive motivation to the Army's 7th Special Forces Group (SFG) through various speaking engagements, basic range shooting events, fishing trips, veteran family cookouts and frequent participation in grueling physical workouts with Special Forces A-teams. In May, he completed the 2nd Annual 7th SFG Savage Loop ultramarathon, a 43-mile run around the Choctawhatchee Bay in the Niceville-Destin-Fort Walton Beach area of Florida.
A fourth-round pick of the Ravens in 2003, Johnson played nine seasons in Baltimore. He only missed one game, which came during his rookie season. He played his final three seasons in San Diego, finishing his career with 526 tackles, 25.5 sacks and 11 forced fumbles.