Norm Johnson’s one-of-a-kind life

Besides being a former Seattle Seahawks kicker, Norm Johnson has sold real estate and insurance and founded 12 Man Pale Ale in Kitsap County.

Now, he rescues goats and puts on petting zoos.

Johnson, 62, was a professional placekicker for 18 years and ranks 16th all-time in most points scored in NFL history with 1,736. Johnson played for the Seahawks from 1982-90. During that span, he was a Pro Bowler once and made nearly 70% of his field goals and 98.5% of his extra points. Afterward, he played for the Atlanta Falcons, Pittsburgh Steelers and Philadelphia Eagles. He played until 1999, becoming a two-time Pro Bowler. He also kicked in the 1996 Super Bowl.

Unfortunately for Johnson, the salaries and benefits were not close to what NFL players make today. “Toward the end of my career, things began to turn positive for the players but the bulk of my playing time salaries were not great,” Johnson said. “The most I ever made in any one year doesn’t even approach a veteran minimum who rides the bench today.”

So he had to try other things after retiring from the NFL. Johnson moved to Silverdale in 2000 to be closer to relatives and friends and began a second life. “It didn’t work out to where I was thinking about getting into the alcohol business,” Johnson said. “I was at an event and met Niel Nilsen who has Jersey Sports Bar and was doing some events out here.”

Johnson and Nilsen developed a partnership and had a staff help develop the concept of the 12 Man Pale Ale. That hype became huge in the Pacific Northwest. CenturyLink field had the beer on tap during the preseason in 2014 but had to pull it because of the Seahawks ties to Budweiser.

Yet, the business began to grow into grocery stores and other local breweries until the Seahawks struck down on the 12 Man Pale Ale. “The Seahawks tried to control all ‘12’,” Johnson said. “Even though we had a trademark, they tried to drag us through federal court until we quit.”

Johnson also did some work in real estate and insurance in Kitsap. However, his visions did not always line up with reality. “When I came back to Kitsap County, I got to know a few real estate agents while I was playing,” Johnson said. “My concept was they get to control their own time, work by themselves, make some decent money and make their own schedule. My vision and reality were two different things.”

Meanwhile, Johnson also did something heroic while living in the county. He helped a woman from her car that skidded on black ice and landed upside down at a 45-degree angle in a water-filled ditch. He broke the car glass with a large rock and helped her climb out.

Johnson left Kitsap after living in Silverdale and Bremerton in 2017. Yet, his three children and grandchildren still live in Silverdale. “I was living in Kitsap County and going through a divorce and I met [Sarah Kessler] on the other side of the pond,” Johnson said. “I met Sarah through all the hype and events with the Seahawks.”

Since leaving Kitsap, the two now live in Maple Valley. When Johnson moved there, his life changed for a third time. “One of the things we run is Dreamland Ponies,” Johnson said. “Not only does she have a pony business for the last 20 years, but now we do petting zoos and more.”

Recently, Johnson and Kessler rescued 21 goats and have been feeding them three times a day. In addition, Johnson still attends some events and does merchant services on the side. “Working with ponies and animals was not on my radar,” Johnson said. “I enjoy it because we are always meeting new people, and it can be rewarding.”