Chris Johnson wants 270 yards for Christmas....
(kinda long but I thought it was a fun read anyway)
NASHVILLE -- His runs look cartoon-like. He cradles the ball and his legs churn so fast they spin like wheels. Like a whizzing, blurry circle.
"That's what Ochocinco calls me -- Chris 'Beep-Beep' Johnson, like the Roadrunner," Christopher Duan Johnson says, his long, thick dreads swinging as he throws back his head and offers a genial laugh. "I need a 200-yard rushing game for my Christmas present. I'd be happy with that. No one would have to get me nothing. That would be a great Christmas."
Whether he gets it against the San Diego Chargers here on Christmas Day, this he will attain -- since it is the only NFL action, Johnson has the stage to show all just what he has become this season. This Tennessee Titans running back is 270 rushing yards shy of being the first to compile a 2,000-yard rushing season since Jamal Lewis did it six years ago. He can become only the sixth player in NFL history to accomplish the feat. Eric Dickerson's single-season rushing mark of 2,105 yards remains a goal.
This he has already gained -- the admiration and respect of his peers.
There is no loftier nugget for an NFL player. This collection of the world's best football players is used to fans' adoration. But when you become the buzz among the brethren -- and Chris Johnson is that -- you have reached rare air. You become a pro amongst pros.
They see how Johnson has provided a jolt in Tennessee's turnabout from a 0-6 start to a 7-1 sprint for an overall 7-7 record. How he has rushed for a league-most 1,730 yards this season, 11 touchdowns and 446 more yards and two more touchdowns on receptions. They marvel over his nine consecutive 100-yard rushing games.
And get this: Johnson has seven runs of 40-or-more yards (San Francisco's Frank Gore is second league-wide with four). Johnson has 20 runs of 20-or-more yards (Adrian Peterson is second with 11).
This second-year NFL player, age 24, a 5-foot-11, 200-pound blend of blinding speed and cement-like toughness has become the players' player.
"I know guys in the league are taking notice," says Johnson, as modestly as you can say that. "They keep telling me after games to keep it up and that they want me to break the single-season rushing record. I can tell they are rooting for me. I'm not happy about the way the season has gone for our team, but we have come back. Basically, halfway through the season, I got a feeling I was going to finish this year as a top-three rusher. I wasn't going to let down no matter how things went. I always feel I can go for more, do more."
Last year at the combine he ran the fastest 40-yard sprint (4.24) in event history. But this East Carolina back fell to the 24th selection, with four running backs (Darren McFadden at No. 4, Jonathan Stewart at No. 13, Felix Jones at No. 22 and Rashard Mendenhall at No. 23) chosen before him. It was not the first time he had been overlooked -- he said no other Division I school other than East Carolina offered him a scholarship.
Those that passed on him in college and in the pros failed to gauge his explosiveness and elusiveness. His acceleration. His ability to sell a running play and redirect. How he can run inside as well as outside. They missed on his rare ability to plant, make one cut, get small, make you miss and outrun the rest.
And go get it at the goal line, too.
He has a pitter-patter-stepping style up to the line of scrimmage and then pow! He's gone.
"He has a true passion for football," Titans secondary coach Marcus Robertson said. "You can see that passion and desire and fury. And he his having fun; you can't underestimate that in this game. He is like a genie in a bottle. You rub it, he delivers. Anytime, he's gone."
Johnson started running from trouble early. He grew up on the West Side of Orlando, of which he said: "The area was tough; guns, killings, drug dealings. I saw a lot growing up. I had no choice but to see it. Sports was the outlet for me."
Titans coach Jeff Fisher said Johnson made a believer out of him early.
"We brought him in for a visit before the draft last year," Fisher said. "He was humble but confident. He trusted his speed. We felt we needed to add speed on offense. We had a pretty good idea in the preseason of what he could do. But then we would see things on the practice field and wonder, 'if he did that in a game, would he score?' He's answered that. He's become a more patient runner. More disciplined. He's an exceptional blocker. And he creates one-one-one matchups all over the place because defenses focus on him."
As a rookie Johnson rushed for 1,228 yards and shared more of the workload. This season he already has 50 more carries than last season.
The more the Titans see, the more they like.
His running backs coach, Earnest Byner, a running back from 1984 through 1997 for Cleveland, Washington and Baltimore, also played in college at East Carolina. Byner gives Titans fullback Ahmard Hall credit for Johnson's season, adding that Hall has become a bullying blocker for Johnson. Byner has had Johnson visit with Hall of Fame backs including Jim Brown and Marcus Allen. He wants Johnson to think greatness.
Johnson has no problem with that.
"When he first came here, when I first met him, he says, 'I broke your records,' " Byner said, laughing, and remembers them fondly sharing their East Carolina connections. "The kid has a good mind. He wants to be great. He doesn't mind putting out there what he wants. He is not bashful about it. To me, that is amazing; I was never like that and few of the guys I played with were like that. He is like Tony Dorsett, only faster. You give him something on Monday and he is doing it on Wednesday. And he works in practices. He doesn't take days off."
Johnson said he does not run similar to anyone.
"Basically, I always love bringing my own style," he said. "I want people to say that guy reminds me of Chris Johnson, not the other way around. I'm glad I fell to No. 24 in the draft. I'm with a great offensive team, a running team with a good offensive line. Any running back loves that.
"Players who are one- or two-year wonders in this league are players who get content. They disappear. That won't happen to me because I will never stop working. I want everybody around the world to see it."
Chris Johnson is our Christmas Day football gift.
Let's see if his speed once again kills.
Our Christmas Gift: Watching Chris Johnson Motor to Greatness -- NFL FanHouse
Re: Chris Johnson wants 270 yards for Christmas....
I hope he gets it, too. He's on my fantasy team.
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