Rex Johnston, who played football and baseball at USC, NFL and MLB, dies at 82

USC logo.

From the baseball diamond to the football gridiron, Rex Johnston did it all for USC in the 1950s and went on to play in both the National Football League and Major League Baseball.

On Sunday, Johnston died of heart failure in Los Angeles. He was 82.

Johnston played three seasons, from 1956 to 1958, for the Trojans, during which he rushed for 674 yards with one touchdown over 30 games. As a junior halfback in 1957, Johnston led USC football in yards rushing (304) and scoring (25 points).


At the same time, Johnston was an outfielder with USC baseball’s 1958 College World Series team and scored the winning run in the 12th inning of the championship game. Johnston hit .374 with 26 runs batted in that season.

After his USC career, Johnston went on to play for the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Pittsburgh Steelers.

USC coach Clay Helton is glad to know he has athletic director Mike Bohn’s support, but he knows more challenges await as the Trojans prepare for the Holiday Bowl.

He’s the only person to have played for both teams.

Johnston appeared in 12 games for the Steelers during the 1960 season serving primarily as a returner. He returned 18 kicks for 393 yards. He also fielded 12 punts for 45 yards and rushed for 12 yards in four carries.

Later, Johnston made it to the big leagues and played in 14 games for the Pirates in 1964.

After the end of his career in professional sports, Johnston ran an industrial paint company.

He is survived by his wife Sandy and children Ty, Rex Jr. and Cynthia.