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Oklahoma tornadoes: OU's Merv Johnson 'was extremely lucky, but I wasn't very smart' with weather decisions

Oklahoma director of football operations Merv Johnson was driving back from a charity golf tournament during the tornado.
BY JOHN ROHDE Published: May 22, 2013

“I came on in to the (locker room) facility and I ran into three or four coaches' wives, and I knew then things were pretty serious because they come over here for shelter. My grandson in Tulsa called and told me what he had been looking at on TV and I finally woke up and realized what was going on.”

Johnson, who turned 77 last Thursday, was alone in the car on his trek from Tulsa.

“Probably if I had anybody with me, they would have had more sense than me and would have had the radio on,” Johnson said. “At my age if you don't wise up any better than that, that's pretty bad. I was extremely lucky.”

The affable Johnson served as an OU assistant coach from 1979-97 and since 1998 has served as director of football operations and special assistant to the athletic director. Johnson has been on staffs that have won four national championships and previously coached at Notre Dame, Arkansas and Missouri, where he was an All-Big Seven tackle for the Tigers and graduated in 1958.

Having lived in Oklahoma more than 30 years, Johnson is no stranger to tornadoes and recalled when Moore previously got hit in 1999 and 2003.

“That's about as close as you want to be to one of those (tornadoes),” Johnson said. “You want to go help any way you can, but they tell you to keep out. I'm really impressed with how they (rescuers) got there so quickly. They were so organized in a hurry and what they've already accomplished in terms of cleaning up, it's incredible. There's just disaster everywhere.

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