Johnson was named to the Butkus Watch List in 1999.
Johnson started every game in 1998 as Nebraska's No. 1 Will linebacker. Johnson was the team's fourth-leading tackler in 1998 with 70 tackles and was second only to Chad Kelsay in tackles for loss with 11-52. Johnson had six sacks for 41 yards lost , had one breakup, six quarterback hurries and forced a fumble. Jackson lead the team in tackles three times last season, including the season opener vs. Louisiana Tech when he tied his career-best with nine stops. In game three vs. California, Johnson had six tackles, including two sacks for 10 yards lost. He had one sack and two QB hurries vs. Washington, six tackles vs. OSU, five at Texas A&M and a team-leading seven vs. Kansas. The next week against Missouri, Johnson had a breakup in the end zone on Missouri's last 10-play drive and sacked Corby Jones for a 10-yard loss to end the game. Against Texas, Johnson had six tackles, a forced fumble and had two tackles for loss, including a six-yard sack. He had five tackles against Iowa State, then tied his career-best with nine stops at No. 2/1 (AP/Coaches) K-State. Against Colorado, Johnson wrote the definition of toughness. Although he had dislocated his shoulder early in the game, Johnson came back in the game recorded a 10-yard sack of Mike Moschetti. He had three tackles and a breakup in the bowl game, despite reinjuring his shoulder.
Johnson made great strides in his second season and played in every game as Octavious McFarlin's backup at Will linebacker. He started the Kansas State game when McFarlin missed the contest with a sprained ankle. Johnson finished as the team's seventh-leading tackler with 49 tackles, including 17 solos, and had three sacks (for 19 yards lost) and seven tackles for 29 yards lost. He also had four quarterback hurries. He had a career-best (and team high) nine tackles (three solo) vs. Iowa State, the only game his father attended. Against the Cyclones, he had two tackles for 13 yards lost, including one eight-yard sack. His other sacks were against Washington and Missouri. Johnson was also a member of the Huskers' kickof coverage team. Johnson had one solo tackle against Tennessee in the FedEx Orange Bowl, as the Huskers held Tennessee to 128 yards rushing and 187 yards passing.
One of the six first-year, non-redshirt players who were key contributors in 1996, Johnson played in nine games. Johnson made the switch from cornerback to Will linebacker in the first week of fall practice and stayed there as two freshmen, Ralph and Mike Brown, filled the void at corner. He recorded 12 tackles (two solo) and had one pass breakup against Baylor. He had a season-best four tackles (all assists) against Missouri. In the 1996 Orange Bowl vs. Virginia Tech, Johnson had one assisted tackle.
Johnson sat out the 1995 season.
Before Nebraska (Alhambra High School)
Johnson attended Curtis Junior High in Carson, California, until he moved to Phoenix his freshman year. At Alhambra, he was an all-state performer. A three-year starter in the secondary, Johnson played cornerback, and was a two-year starting tailback and played both strong safety and linebacker as a senior for Coach Paul Hoffland. He earned All-Valley honors two years, all-state two years, All-Arizona all-class as a senior and was selected to play in the Down Under Bowl and North vs. South All-Star Games. Johnson earned the Tyrone Byrd award, named after the former Husker free safety (1989-92), given to the state's best defensive back. He rushed for 1,900 yards and 24 TDs in his last two years (925 in 1994). In 1994, Johnson was Alhambra's second-leading tackler with 74 solo stops and 33 assists for 107 tackles, two blocked kicks, and one interception. Also a kickoff returner, Johnson returned two for TDs as a sophomore, one as a junior and amassed 300 yards in returns in 1994. A sprinter on the track team, Johnson posted bests of 10.8 in the 100,22.0 in the 200 and 49.0 in the 400 meters as a senior. Eric's cousin, Jamelle Holieway, played quarterback for Oklahoma from 1985 to 1988. Johnson picked Nebraska over Colorado, Arizona State, Arizona, Michigan, Texas and Illinois, but only visited Nebraska.
The son of Edgar Johnson and Freeda Johnson, Eric was born on April 30, 1976. He majored in family and consumer science. Johnson was a volunteer with the Charlie Brown "Good Grief" Support Group.