Jimmy Johnson's Irma rebuilding was a labor of love -- of the Keys

'We'd have to do it again if there was another storm,' he says

By Janine Stanwood - Anchor/Reporter

KEY LARGO, Fla. - Legendary Miami Hurricanes and Dolphins football coach Jimmy Johnson loves the Florida Keys.

When he's not checking in on the Big Chill, his popular restaurant in Key Largo, he's fishing offshore in his center-console SeeVee called "Three Rings."

Even after painstakingly rebuilding his oceanfront Islamorada home after Hurricane Irma, Johnson said he would do it all over again.

"We'd have to do it again if there was another storm," he said.

Nearly a year after Irma made landfall in the Keys, Johnson recalls how much it stung to see his dream house swamped by the storm surge.

"We've been through hurricanes before. You know, I've been in the Keys for 25 years. But we never expected anything like this," Johnson told Local 10's Janine Stanwood. "When we saw it, we were just devastated."

Jimmy Johnson's home in Florida Keys was rebuilt after damage from Hurricane Irma.

The storm hit the Florida Keys hit hard, and Jimmy Johnson's oceanfront home wasn't spared.

He missed two weeks of commentating NFL games so he could assess the damage and start the cleanup.

"It was sand and seaweed. And doors busted down. And everything flooded. And the tiki hut that was on the ground because all the poles had been sheared off," he said.

Johnson's ground-floor memorabilia room was flooded. Photos with past presidents, football players, and plaques were ruined.

"We had two commercial trash bins full of stuff I had been saving for 30 years," he said.

Immediately following the hurricane, Johnson said he did what he could to be a good neighbor.

"We were out serving pizza to all the first responders and trying to do some things to get people back to the Keys," he said.

After a year, Johnson and his wife, with the help of contractors, builders and landscapers, rebuilt the backyard and docks. They also cleaned up the memorabilia room and were able to get some photos copied and replaced. He knows he's among the lucky ones.

"I can't complain because, you know, we could afford to rebuild. What hurts me is there's a lot of people down here who couldn't afford to rebuild," Johnson said.

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