As a boy, Mitchell Johnson never took cricket seriously.

Playing cricket was just "fun" for the young man from Townsville - until Dennis Lillee put his hand on the 18-year-old's shoulder and whispered success in his ear. What followed next is history.

Johnson became one of the greatest fast bowlers the country has seen - but it wasn't a particularly easy ride.

He was jeered, he was dropped, but then he dominated.

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His 37 wickets in Australia's gleeful whitewash of England in the 2013-14 home series is a folkloric tale of redemption most players can only dream about.

Johnson bounced back from the jaws of early retirement and delivered possibly the best performance we've seen in an Ashes series from a bowler this century - and yes, we remember Warnie in 2005.

Here are a few things you didn't know about our famous moustached crusader.

1. He was incredibly shy as a teenager

Don't let the mo fool you. Johnson's on-field swagger wasn't always with him; with the retired quick revealing he was terrible with the ladies throughout high school.

"I liked them, but I was shy and that made things hard," Johnson said in his book Resilient. "There were a couple, but all my relationships were long term - not that there were many."

He wasn't just shy, either.

Behind the 150km/h arm is an anxious man who placed an incredible amount of stress in preparation for a big match.

"The number of times I lost it because I couldn't practise my run-ups in nets that weren't big enough was ridiculous."

Johnson also revealed he would drink to get to sleep after long flights - but that ended pretty quickly as his career progressed.

"I used to come home from a tour and get stuck into it every night trying to get over jet lag by drinking myself to sleep the first few days," he said.

2. He almost joined the Army

Coming from Townsville - a predominantly military city - Johnson was tempted to join the army as a misguided young man fresh out of high school.

"Like all boys, I was fascinated with guns and tanks," he said.

Johnson was playing too much sport at school to focus entirely on the army, but the prospect of joining never escaped his mind. "I was interested in the military life but I hadn't done anything about it."

It wasn't until his cricket club pulled together funds for him to go to a fast bowling academy in Brisbane that the 18-year-old's life turned to cricket for the long haul.

3. He has a lot more in common with Jeff Thomson than you'd think

Johnson's ability to hit the deck with his devastating slinging action earned him many comparisons with fast-bowling great Jeff Thomson - but that's not the only thing they had in common.

Johnson credits a lot of his development to competing in javelin events at school - something Thomson also did while growing up in Queensland. It's not hard to see the influence of the spear-throw on their bowling actions, which resemble more of a catapult rather than a delivery stride.

While his action doesn't completely replicate Thomson's famous back arch, his ability to skittle a batsman's confidence is almost identical.

The pair both incited uncontrollable fear in England's hearts throughout their careers - most recently being Jonathan Trott after he admitted to Johnson being his "executioner" which led to his shock withdrawal of the 2013-14 Ashes.

The only thing Johnson hasn't done (that we know of) is have a ball sail over the keeper's head and half-volley the sightscreen as Thomson famously did at the WACA in the 70s.

4. He fantasised about being injured

Normally, an injury is devastating for a fast bowler at the height of their career. For Mitchell Johnson in 2011, it would have been a blessing.

Johnson fell from grace in a spectacularly-horrific spiral which saw him dropped from the Test side and virtually dismissed as a cricketer.

"To be honest, I just didn't want to play the game anymore. I longed not to be on a cricket field," he said.

"Something snapped in my mind. By then I was a shell - I had lost all confidence and form.

"I fantasised about being injured and not having to do it anymore."

Luckily for Johnson, he was able to fight his way back into the side and deliver a series whitewash against England - the second time in under a decade.

5. The Barmy Army hurt him - a lot

Being an international cricketer, especially in an Ashes series, comes with more than a fair share of ribbing from the opposition's crowd - but Mitchell Johnson's case is one of the most severe.

We all know the song sung throughout Johnson's Ashes career: "He bowls to the left, he bowls to the right - Mitchell Johnson, his bowling is sh*te".

From afar, it appeared Johnson was able to shrug these taunts off, but he says the tirade of insults delivered by England's notorious band of beer-guzzling supporters pushed his self-doubt to new levels.

The jolly bunch jeered at Johnson about everything from his haircut to his family struggles throughout his Ashes career - something he says was enough to smash his self confidence to the point of it having a negative effect on his game.

"I thought bringing my mum and Jess into it was crossing a line. I still think that," he said.
"I got so down that I believed them when they told me I was s**t."