Former NFL wide receiver and Dancing With the Stars finalist is mourning the loss of his mother. Chad Ochocinco (born Chad Johnson) took to Instagram a few weeks ago to share with his fans that his mother, Paula Johnson, died at the age of 65. He did not offer any details about the cause of death. The two previously appeared on a reality show together where they talked about their tumultuous relationship and tried to work through some of their issues.
Here’s what you need to know.
Ochocino Said It Was So Hard to Lose the Person Responsible for Who He Is
Ochocinco recently sat down with three other NFL players for the podcast “I Am Athlete” where they talked openly and honestly about mental health struggles, especially in the wake of Vincent Jackson’s death. Ochocinco was overcome with emotion talking about his mom’s death.
“One of my lowest moments happened two-three weeks ago when I got that call, ‘Yo, you need to come by,’ and I knew there was a problem because I got a call from an immediate family member — ‘wait, you normally don’t call me’ … I called my brother right away and he answered the phone crying and I just hung up. I already knew what time it was, so I mentally prepared myself to bury my old girl,” said Ochocinco, fighting back tears.
He also said, “It f***ed me up a little bit to lose the person that birthed me, the person responsible for who I am,” but he’s “keeping busy” to try to keep his mind off it.
“That memory is gonna always be there, being able to smile and look at the videos and always live through those moments that we had, good and bad,” said Ochocinco.
Ochocinco Celebrated His Mom With a Video of Them Dancing Together
In an Instagram post of a video showing Ochocinco and Johnson dancing together, the former NFL wide receiver wrote, “RIP to my [GOAT emoji] Paula Johnson aka Hurricane Paula.”
It’s clear where Ochocinco gets his dancing talent from, as his mother has some very smooth moves. Ochocinco finished in fourth place on Dancing With the Stars season 10 with his partner, Cheryl Burke.
In a subsequent post about his mom, Ochocinco wrote that Johnson would have turned 66 years old on February 7. He posted a video from a birthday celebration they had for her three years ago.
In the video, Johnson unwraps some new shoes, a sweatshirt, and a purse and she is absolutely delighted, posing with her presents. It’s a lovely memory for him to have.
On Twitter, he posted several photos of her, including one of Johnson with some of her grandchildren, one of the two of them together when he was playing football at Santa Monica College, and a third photo where he wrote, “Hurricane season was year round.”
Johnson and Ochocinco Appeared on ‘Marriage Bootcamp Reality Stars: Family Edition’ in 2017
A few years ago, Ochocinco and his mom appeared on Marriage Bootcamp Reality Stars: Family Edition to repair their relationship. Ochocinco was still holding on to some resentment from when his mom left him with his grandmother when he was five years old, he said in their introductory video. But his mom tearfully said that she didn’t desert or abandon him, she “just didn’t want to uproot him.”
They are referring to the fact that when Ochocinco was young, Johnson moved to Los Angeles with his younger brother, Chauncey, Ochocinco told the Boston Globe in 2011, leaving Ochocinco behind in Miami with his grandmother, Bessie Mae Flowers. His father was in prison; Ochocinco didn’t meet his father until he was out of high school. Ochocinco eventually moved to Los Angeles to be with his mother and brother and enrolled at Santa Monica College, which is where he met the coach who would set him on his NFL path.
But back on Marriage Bootcamp, Ochocinco and his mother still had a lot of issues to work through.
“The current status of our relationship is that we’re talking. It’s somewhat distant. I do see her very often, but the times I do spend are very short,” said Ochocinco, adding, “My mom is a ticking time bomb when she thinks she’s right. It ain’t pretty.”
His mom then got onto him for having so many children, saying, “Chad is a d*** fool. He has to leave his sperm in every motherf***ing relationship.”
Ochocinco has six children. In 2016, he told In Depth With Graham Bensinger he talked about not being as present as he wanted to be when they were little because he was playing in the NFL — Ochocinco played with the Cincinnati Bengals from 2001-2010 and then played one season with the New England Patriots — but now that they’re older, they are the ones who don’t have time for him.
But on Marriage Bootcamp, Johnson told her son that he needs to realize “nobody has your best interests [in mind] like your mother.”
“I envision my relationship with my mom once we leave here to be normal. She deserves to see what it feels like, I deserve to know what it feels like. That’s what I’m looking forward to,” said Ochocinco.
Later on, in the season, Johnson became very upset during a session with Ochocinco and started yelling about how her son turned his back on her when he was in the NFL.
“Here we go again. It’s been the same continuous cycle over and over,” said Ochocinco, as he had to confront his mother’s drinking problem. Johnson then tried to leave the show, saying that she doesn’t need her son because she has gotten along just fine without her.
But they did make a few strides during the season. They came together during an escape room challenge, with Ochocinco saying it was “dope” that they were able to come together and communicate.
Ochocinco lost his father in early 2012, according to NFL.com.
Dancing With the Stars will hopefully return with season 30 in 2021. ABC has not yet officially announced a renewal and premiere date.