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Thunder Finalize 2015 Coaching Staff

Friday January 16, 2015

 PORTLAND – The Portland Thunder are pleased to announce Ernesto Purnsley as the Assistant Head Coach and Defensive Coordinator, and Lee Johnson as Special Teams Coordinator and Assistant Defensive Coordinator, effective immediately.

Both Purnsley and Johnson were added to the staff in directorial roles in October 2014, but will assume coaching roles in advance of the 2015 AFL season, which begins on March 27th.

“The level of effort and dedication we have seen from both Ernesto and Lee since October has been exemplary,” Thunder President Brian Sandy stated. “To have their combined experience join that of Head Coach Mike Hohensee’s on the field will provide us with a major platform for future success.”

Between Hohensee (28 years), Purnsley (17 years), Johnson (17 years), and Line Coach Clay Harrell (8 years), the Thunder coaching staff have 70 years of Arena Football League experience, the largest such number currently held by an AFL coaching staff.

Purnsley joined the Thunder on October 20th, 2014 as the Director of Player Personnel following three seasons as the defensive coordinator of the Iowa Barnstormers. “Netto” as he is affectionately known, began his AFL coaching career in 1997 as an assistant with the Albany Firebirds. Purnsley is best known for his successes in Denver during his four seasons as defensive coordinator of the Colorado Crush, winning three division titles and Arena Bowl XIX. Ernesto has previously coached alongside Hohensee on four occasions, with the Albany Firebirds (1998), Chicago Rush (2008), Philadelphia Soul (2011), and the aforementioned Barnstormers (2012-14).

Lee Johnson joined the Thunder last October as well, becoming the Director of Football Operations. Prior to his arrival in Portland, Lee was the Head Coach of the San Antonio Talons for three seasons, from 2012 to 2014. Johnson’s 2012 Talons team ranks third all-time on the single season, consecutive wins list (11).

Johnson began his coaching career in 1997 with the CFL's Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Lee went on to coach the defensive line for the Berlin Thunder (NFL Europe) from 2001 to 2002, helping the team to consecutive World Bowl titles. Lee also served as the line coach and special-teams coordinator, alongside Purnsley, on the ArenaBowl XIX champion Colorado Crush staff. Prior to coaching, Johnson was a defensive lineman for six season in the NFL, CFL and AFL. Johnson’s AFL playing experience dates back to 1993, when as a member of the ArenaBowl VII champion Tampa Bay Storm, he was selected to play in the League’s first and only All-Star Game. Johnson later joined the Charlotte Rage for two seasons (1995-96) before turning his focus from playing to coaching.

About the Portland Thunder
The Portland Thunder kickoff the 2015 AFL season March 27th against the LA KISS at the Moda Center! Tickets and sponsorships for the 2015 season are now available. For more information, email us at or call 503-773-4235. For all the latest news and discussion on the Portland Thunder, follow the team on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (@pdxthunder).