|Posted on April 8, 2018 at 11:00 AM|
At Penn State, Larry Johnson was an AP All-American running back. After being selected by the Kansas City Chiefs in the first round of the 2003 NFL Draft, he went on to earn AP Second Team All-Pro (2005) and AP First Team All-Pro (2006) honors. He set the Chiefs single-season rushing record with 1,750 yards in 2005 (in only 9 starts), then broke his own record by rushing for 1,789 yards in 2006.
I caught up with the 2x Pro Bowl selection to reflect upon his NFL career, to discuss how Saquon Barkley's Penn State career compares to his and to see what he's been up to since retirement.
Ryan: You were drafted in the first round of the 2003 NFL Draft by the Kansas City Chiefs. What was it like to join a backfield that already featured one of the league’s best running backs, Priest Holmes?
Larry: "It was frustrating at first because I had worked all my college career to be the lone wolf in the backfield. If I was going to be a backup coming in as a rookie, than I was blessed that it ended up being Priest Holmes (2002 NFL Offensive Player of the Year)."
Ryan: What advice would you give running backs entering the 2018 NFL Draft?
Larry: "Running backs coming into the draft need to learn the history of their craft, their position. Learn why we love and cherish the game we play. Most importantly, learn defensive schemes and know where to put the ball. Not every run will be a home run."
Larry: "No modesty needed. I am. My single-game records haven’t been eclipsed and neither have my single season records. While I started fewer seasons than him, I’m the only running back in Penn State history to hit 2,000 yards in under 252 carries. [Barkley] will always be faster and shiftier than me, like an Ollie Matson or Gale Sayers. I preferred to be Earl Campbell, Jim Taylor, Marion Motley. I love the kid but in this social media age, popularity always overshadows facts."
(Melvin Gordon eclipsed 2,000 yards on his 241st carry in 2014, making him and Johnson the only two running backs in FBS history to eclipse 2,000 yards in under 252 carries. Barkley's career high was 1,496 in 2016.)
Ryan: Out of the 85 games you played during your NFL career, which one stands out as the best representation of who you were as a football player?
Larry: "My career against the Denver Donkeys [Broncos]. There wasn’t a game against them that didn’t feel like a High School Homecoming. Those games showed my patience and vision as a runner, along with being able to carry the ball past 30 when the team really relied on me. I say Denver because honestly, those are the only games I can really remember."
Ryan: What do you consider to be the greatest accomplishment of your NFL career?
Larry: "My greatest accomplishment was my 416 carry record. Everyone says that it was the downfall of my career but those carries showed how tough I was as a runner, being a big back that didn’t have much agility or top speed. Having the reputation of a warrior, [being] tough and hard to bring down came from that 416 carry season and that’s all I wanted to prove as running back in the NFL."
(Johnson's 416 carries in 2006 remain the highest single-season total in NFL history.)
Ryan: What are you up to these days?
Larry: "These days I volunteer a couple of hours a week helping The Motivational Edge, a non profit as a member of the Board of Directors. I try to raise funding and awareness for South Florida youth from all walks of life and backgrounds, to teach them about the dangers of mental illness. I try to help our youth out here as much as I can because I know what it feels like to be lost inside your mind with no one to help or care."
Follow Larry Johnson on Twitter: @2LarryJohnson7
Follow The Motivational Edge on Twitter: @motivedge
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