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C-Mac
05-05-2005, 07:27 AM
Chiefs say hello to a true hero

Green, Richardson pay a visit to the ‘Extreme Makeover' family

By ELIZABETH MERRILL

The Kansas City Star


A steady stream of gawkers roll through Stephen Johnson's neighborhood these days, and things have gotten so out of control that one woman recently had the nerve to walk in, unannounced, and take a tour while his kids played upstairs.

“I call it the Sunday ticket,” Johnson said. “It's been like that every day.”

Good thing Johnson didn't tell anyone that company was coming Wednesday.

Chiefs players Trent Green and Tony Richardson stopped by to visit the Kansas City firefighter who was the recipient of a 4,200-square-foot house courtesy of ABC's “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.”

Johnson is a lifelong Chiefs fan — friends say he looks like Derrick Thomas — and Green and Richardson autographed jerseys that hang in one of the bedrooms. They could've waited to see what the family looks like on TV Sunday night, but Green and Richardson decided they had to meet Johnson, especially after hearing the story of how he helped save a paramedic by running through a hail of bullets.

The first thing Johnson told Green was that he felt guilty for the lavish digs.

“You shouldn't,” Green said. “You did something very heroic.”

Green and Richardson are known as a couple of the do-gooders on the team, and it's obvious they're also good friends. Richardson pulled up in his Range Rover, and Green made a crack about how it's a bachelor's ride. They live just two blocks away from each other, and Green's sons go trick-or-treating at T-Rich's house.

They brought barbecue and played catch with Johnson's five children in the front lawn. Green, a Pro Bowl quarterback, warned the kids to be careful when Richardson, the Pro Bowl fullback, threw the ball. Soon after that, one of Richardson's passes clipped a couple of tree limbs.

“We won't have to worry about any fullback passes,” Green joked.

Richardson said he has deep respect for people like Johnson who put their lives on the line for others. Growing up in a military family, Richardson spent most of his childhood bouncing from town to town. He told Johnson his 10 years in Kansas City are probably the longest he's stayed anywhere. Richardson has a sister who's on active duty in Korea.

He had to leave early — he was meeting coach Dick Vermeil for dinner — but Richardson made Johnson promise he'd have him back for a postgame barbecue this fall.

Green also had other plans Wednesday night. It was his wife Julie's 35th birthday, but they picked up their kids after school and headed straight to Johnson's house in south Kansas City. Julie, who met Trent in college when they were at Indiana, said they bring their two boys to most of their charity events. They want them to know how important it is to give back.

T.J. and Derek Green played football on the lawn while the Johnson boys quizzed Richardson about Dante Hall and Tony Gonzalez. Derek, who's 5, snuck away long enough to set off the panic alarm on the Greens' Ford Expedition.

“We kind of keep each other grounded,” Julie said. “We have college friends who say, ‘Go do something extravagant.' But we're the same people we were in college. Which is good. I wouldn't want to change.”

But life isn't all front-yard football tosses and panic alarms for Green. He can't help coach his son's baseball team without being mobbed near the dugout. He finds it hard to say no.

Johnson, who was standing in the middle of the lawn with Green, jokingly suggested that he wear a veil, a la Michael Jackson. Green suggested he compare him to another celebrity.

They laughed and lingered until the sun went down and Green realized it was time to take his wife out for a birthday dinner. As they pulled out of the driveway, Green honked and waved goodbye.

“They're very down to earth,” Johnson said. “For them to do that for us … that's cool. It's a real treat.”