A few years removed from his NFL career, Doug Johnson found himself contemplating the next phase of his life.
He had been offered coaching jobs but turned them down due to the strain he felt it would place on his family.
Instead, the fifth-generation Gainesville resident, father of two and founder of the Reeling for Kids Fishing Tournament, started to look for something that would combine his ability to lead with his dedication to the place he was born and raised. That’s when he met Faye Fletcher-Johnson.
Fletcher-Johnson founded Johnson & Fletcher Insurance in 1976. The two were introduced by a mutual friend, went to lunch and hit it off instantly, so in July of 2009, Johnson joined the team.
“His character and work ethic,” Fletcher-Johnson says when asked what impresses her about her protégé. “He’s also extremely smart…all of those things. He’s a great, great guy.”
Johnson had been learning under Fletcher-Johnson for three years when, in April of 2012, she sold her 36-year-old insurance agency to venerable insurance man and former state Rep. Perry McGriff. The following year, McGriff turned around and sold the business to Johnson, who officially started quarterbacking his new team on May 1.
“I have a staff that I truly respect,” Johnson says. “I have a mentor who’s still there, who founded the business, who every day brings the it factor to our office and is our rock. The agency is only as good as the weakest link, and I think we’re pretty good.”
Johnson’s got reason to be confident. Not only does he have the backing of his mentor — who says she’s “here to stay”— he’s got a lifetime of successes from which to draw.
A graduate of Bucholz High School, Johnson played quarterback at UF from 1996 to 1999, once throwing a league record seven touchdowns in a game. Additionally, he was a second-round pick of the then-Tampa Bay Devil Rays and split time between minor league baseball and college football.
Signed by the Atlanta Falcons as a free agent, Johnson played seven seasons in the NFL. During those seven years, he constantly pursued his charitable interest at home.
“I’m big into community service,” Johnson says. “That’s why I have Reeling for Kids.”
Founded in 2003, the annual fishing tournament raises money for Johnson’s beloved Boys & Girls Club of Alachua County.
“A tremendous impact,” says Laura Javidi, who directs the fishing tournament, plus works as development director and special events coordinator at the Boys & Girls Club. “Over the past 10 years that we’ve done the event, the revenue has allowed us to expand our services and to be able to provide the kids items they need and to maintain the facilities and help keep up the football field. The funds we raised helped build the press box that is out on the field.”
The tournament has grown into the club’s largest fundraiser and one of the largest saltwater fishing tournaments on the west coast of Florida.
Says Johnson: “It is gratifying to help the cause because I know what they do with kids who have no family atmosphere, and I know how they change lives.”
If Reeling for Kids, which has an impressively long list of sponsors, is any indication of how Johnson & Fletcher will operate under his leadership, Johnson’s Gainesville legacy should continue to grow.
As in the past, the company will continue to provide a wide range of insurance, including commercial, personal, life, health, long-term care and disability. Johnson also will continue to follow the formula established by Fletcher-Johnson.
“I would characterize us as a service agency,” Johnson says. “We are more concerned with trying to service our clients, not trying to build our book as fast as we can, where you’re bringing one in and two are walking out the door. We want to retain our clients, grow slowly, and rely on word of mouth because – I think – ultimately, just like with Reeling for Kids, if you learn to hit singles and doubles in business, it’s going to be a whole lot more beneficial in the end with a business that has clients that are loyal to you.”
Johnson continues: “If we have a client walk in, and it just doesn’t fit with the carriers we have, and there’s someone out there who can do it better, Faye will be the first person to lead that client to a competitor. I really respect her, because I’ve seen her do that…at our agency, we want to do it right and do it right the first time.”
That’s a philosophy that has guided Johnson throughout his career, and will continue to do so as he begins this new chapter of his life.
“It’s never repetitive, and that’s one thing I like about the insurance industry, especially with us being independent,” Johnson says. “We’re dealing with multiple carriers and we’re dealing with multiple risks, and we’re trying to piece things together, so it’s never the same. I could never do something that’s the same thing every time. I had to involve myself in something that’s competitive, and where I’m interacting with people and helping them. It has to be exciting and never monotonous, because that’s just not me.”
Johnson’s “me” is complex and evolving.
He’s the father who has been married to his college sweetheart, Tara, for 12 years. “At the end of the day,” he says, “I brought my two kids here, and I’m married to my kids and my wife.”
He’s the community servant whose latest goal is to give the Boys & Girls Club a total facelift. “If it takes another 10 years,” he says, “I’m going to make it happen.”
And then he’s the businessman who hopes to take all of the lessons he’s learned — in sports and in life — and parlay them into a successful career.
“It’s amazing how similar to life football is, as far as perseverance and working with people and being responsible and loyal and accountable…I can go on and on,” Johnson says. “Being tough and competitive, and learning how to turn the page. I think all I learned in sports will help me in business.
“But ultimately, I never thought of myself as a career athlete. I wanted to be a business owner, and I’m definitely blessed to have ventured into this profession because it’s such a good fit for who I am and what I want to do. I get up every morning, and I love to go to work. I don’t think anybody outworks me. But at the end of the day, I do recognize there has to be a balance between time for yourself, time for your family and time for your work. I try to work on that continuously.”