Titans' Johnson powers through speed stereotype to lead the NFL
There was nothing more to do. It was the fastest time a running back ever posted at the combine. In exactly 4.24 seconds, Johnson went from little-known prospect to first-round draft pick. The Titans took him 24th overall in the 2008 draft, despite warnings he was more track star than tailback, better in workouts than in games.
As much as NFL scouts emphasize speed, they are also wary of it. They have all seen examples of teams -- most often the Raiders -- who are seduced by a player's 40-time and overlook deficiencies in other, more fundamental areas. "Usually," said Titans offensive coordinator
At Olympia High in Orlando, Johnson played football, but he was known more for running in straight lines. He lost his only track meets to future NCAA champion
He was offered just one football scholarship, to East Carolina, where he excelled as a kick returner but did not become the full-time tailback until his senior year. Only then, when he led the nation with 227 all-purpose yards per game, did he prove his speed was transferrable. Unlike most burners, who get knocked down by a stiff breeze, Johnson can absorb a hit and barely lose momentum. He often seems to pick up speed after contact. "When I see a crack, I find myself looking at him instead of the defense," Heimerdinger said. "You catch yourself wondering, 'Is this one going all the way?'"
The weight of what Johnson is accomplishing this season -- he is the fifth player to reach 1,500 yards in 12 games, the third player to rush for 125 yards or more in six straight games, and the first player to have three runs of 85 yards or more -- has not been fully appreciated for a variety of reasons. He was not well known in college, does not play for a winning team, does not play in a big market and, most important, is not
The problem has nothing to do with Johnson's personality. He is honest bordering on outrageous, with shoulder-length dreadlocks, gold teeth and a BMW he
Johnson is on pace to finish this season with more than 2,000 yards, but his goal is 2,105, the record set by
After starting 0-6, the Titans had their five-game winning streak snapped Sunday in Indianapolis, and Johnson