Larry Johnson (running back)

Last updated

Larry Johnson
Larry Johnson KC Chiefs.jpg
Johnson in 2007
No. 34, 27, 23
Position: Running back
Personal information
Born: (1979-11-19) November 19, 1979 (age 39)
Pomfret, Maryland
Height:6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)
Weight:235 lb (107 kg)
Career information
High school: State College Area
(State College, Pennsylvania)
College: Penn State
NFL Draft: 2003  / Round: 1 / Pick: 27
Career history
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Rushing yards:6,223
Rushing touchdowns:55
Receiving yards:1,373
Receiving touchdowns:6
Player stats at
Player stats at PFR

Larry Alphonso Johnson Jr. (born November 19, 1979) is a former American football running back in the National Football League (NFL). He played college football for Penn State University, and was recognized as a unanimous All-American. He was drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs in the first round of the 2003 NFL Draft and also played for the Cincinnati Bengals, Washington Redskins and Miami Dolphins of the NFL.

American football Team field sport

American football, referred to as football in the United States and Canada and also known as gridiron, is a team sport played by two teams of eleven players on a rectangular field with goalposts at each end. The offense, the team with possession of the oval-shaped football, attempts to advance down the field by running with the ball or passing it, while the defense, the team without possession of the ball, aims to stop the offense's advance and to take control of the ball for themselves. The offense must advance at least ten yards in four downs or plays; if they fail, they turn over the football to the defense, but if they succeed, they are given a new set of four downs to continue the drive. Points are scored primarily by advancing the ball into the opposing team's end zone for a touchdown or kicking the ball through the opponent's goalposts for a field goal. The team with the most points at the end of a game wins.

Running back Position in American and Canadian football

A running back (RB) is an American and Canadian football position, a member of the offensive backfield. The primary roles of a running back are to receive handoffs from the quarterback for a rushing play, to catch passes from out of the backfield, and to block. There are usually one or two running backs on the field for a given play, depending on the offensive formation. A running back may be a halfback, a wingback or a fullback. A running back will sometimes be called a "feature back" if he is the team's starting running back.

National Football League Professional American football league

The National Football League (NFL) is a professional American football league consisting of 32 teams, divided equally between the National Football Conference (NFC) and the American Football Conference (AFC). The NFL is one of the four major professional sports leagues in North America and the highest professional level of American football in the world. The NFL's 17-week regular season runs from early September to late December, with each team playing 16 games and having one bye week. Following the conclusion of the regular season, six teams from each conference advance to the playoffs, a single-elimination tournament culminating in the Super Bowl, which is usually held on the first Sunday in February and is played between the champions of the NFC and AFC.


Early years

Johnson was born in Pomfret, Maryland. He was one of three children born to Christine and Larry Johnson Sr.. His father is a former high school vice-principal, a high school football coach, former defensive line coach at Penn State University, and the current defensive line coach at Ohio State University. [1] Johnson graduated from State College Area High School in State College, Pennsylvania, where he played for the State College Little Lions high school football team.

Pomfret, Maryland Census-designated place in Maryland, United States

Pomfret is a small census-designated place in Charles County, Maryland, United States. As of the 2010 census, it had a population of 517.

Larry Johnson (American football coach) American football coach

Larry Johnson is an American football coach, currently the defensive line and associate head coach at Ohio State University. He served as an assistant football coach at Pennsylvania State University from 1996 to 2013. Johnson was a high school football coach in the Washington, D.C. area from 1983 to 1993. He is the father of former National Football League running back Larry Johnson and former Penn State wide receiver Tony Johnson.

High school football Secondary school competition in gridiron football

High school football is gridiron football played by high school teams in the United States and Canada. It ranks among the most popular interscholastic sports in both countries, but its popularity is declining. Between 2009 and 2019, participation in high school football has declined by 9%.

College career

Johnson attended Pennsylvania State University, and played for coach Joe Paterno's Penn State Nittany Lions football team from 1999 to 2002. As a senior in 2002, he rushed for over 2,000 yards in a season without winning the Heisman Trophy, despite doing so with fewer carries than any other running back in the exclusive 2,000-yard club (this record was broken on November 22, 2014 by Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon, who gained 2,000 yards on 241 carries—10 fewer than Johnson's 251 [2] ). He averaged 8.0 yards per carry during the regular season. Johnson broke the Penn State record for rushing yards in a game three times in 2002. His 257 yards in a 49–0 home thrashing of Northwestern broke Curt Warner's previous record of 256 yards set against Syracuse in 1981. He then went on to rack up 279 yards in an 18–7 home win against Illinois and 327 yards in a 58–25 road win against Indiana. He surpassed the 2,000-yard mark by gaining 279 yards on just 19 attempts in the Penn State Nittany Lions' final Big Ten Conference game against Michigan State. Johnson gained all 279 of his rushing yards in the first half, and was kept on the bench for the entire second half of the game. He finished the 2002 season with 2,087 yards.

Pennsylvania State University Public university with multiple campuses in Pennsylvania, United States

The Pennsylvania State University is a state-related, land-grant, doctoral university with campuses and facilities throughout Pennsylvania. Founded in 1855 as the Farmers' High School of Pennsylvania, Penn State conducts teaching, research, and public service. Its instructional mission includes undergraduate, graduate, professional and continuing education offered through resident instruction and online delivery. Its University Park campus, the flagship campus, lies within the Borough of State College and College Township. It has two law schools: Penn State Law, on the school's University Park campus, and Dickinson Law, located in Carlisle, 90 miles south of State College. The College of Medicine is located in Hershey. Penn State has another 19 commonwealth campuses and 5 special mission campuses located across the state. Penn State has been labeled one of the "Public Ivies," a publicly funded university considered as providing a quality of education comparable to those of the Ivy League.

Joe Paterno American college football coach

Joseph Vincent Paterno, sometimes referred to as JoePa, was an American college football player, athletic director, and coach. He was the head coach of the Penn State Nittany Lions from 1966 to 2011. With 409 victories, Paterno is the most victorious coach in NCAA FBS history. He recorded his 409th victory on October 29, 2011; his career ended with his dismissal from the team on November 9, 2011, as a result of the Penn State child sex abuse scandal. He died 74 days later, of complications from lung cancer.

The Penn State Nittany Lions team represents the Pennsylvania State University in college football. The Nittany Lions compete in the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision as a member of the Big Ten Conference, which they joined in 1993 after playing as an Independent from 1892 to 1992.

Following his 2002 senior season, Johnson was a first-team All-Big Ten selection and was recognized as a unanimous first-team All-American. [3] He also won the Doak Walker Award (top running back), the Maxwell Award (top college player), and the Walter Camp Award (top college player). Johnson rushed for 2,159 yards and 29 touchdowns. [4] He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in integrative arts from Penn State in 2002.

The Doak Walker Award, first awarded in 1990, honors the top running back in college football in the United States. It is named in honor of Doak Walker, a star halfback in college for the SMU Mustangs and in the National Football League for the Detroit Lions. The 2018 winner of the Doak Walker Award was Jonathan Taylor of Wisconsin. The award requires all candidates to be:

The Maxwell Award is presented annually to the college football player judged by a panel of sportscasters, sportswriters, and National Collegiate Athletic Association head coaches and the membership of the Maxwell Football Club to be the best all-around in the United States. The award is named after Robert "Tiny" Maxwell, a Swarthmore College football player, coach and sportswriter. Johnny Lattner and Tim Tebow are the only players to have won the award twice. It is the college equivalent of the Bert Bell Award of the National Football League, also given out by the Maxwell Club.

Walter Camp Award award

The Walter Camp Player of the Year Award is given annually to the collegiate American football player of the year, as decided by a group of National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I FBS head coaches and sports information directors under the auspices of the Walter Camp Football Foundation; the award is named for Walter Camp, an important and influential figure in the development of the sport. Three players have won the award twice: Colt McCoy of the University of Texas in 2008 and 2009, Archie Griffin of Ohio State in 1974 and 1975, and O. J. Simpson of USC in 1967 and 1968.

College statistics

1999 Penn State 12431714.014741
2000 Penn State 12753584.8391221
2001 Penn State 12713374.72111362
2002 Penn State 122712,0877.720413493
College Totals484602,9536.426656817

Source: [5]

Professional career

Kansas City Chiefs

Johnson was drafted in the first round with the 27th overall pick in the 2003 NFL Draft as insurance for the Kansas City Chiefs, who were unsure if Priest Holmes would be healthy or even sign a contract extension. Johnson was drafted over the objection of head coach Dick Vermeil, who wanted to select a defensive player, and despite the lack of recent NFL success by Penn State running backs (Blair Thomas, Ki-Jana Carter, Curtis Enis). The conflicts between Johnson and Vermeil grew, and in 2004 Vermeil said that Johnson needed to grow up and "take the diapers off." [6] Johnson took great offense to this comment, and the public estrangement led to rumors that he would be traded. However, towards the end of the 2004 season, Johnson got an opportunity to start after injuries to Priest Holmes and Derrick Blaylock. Facing the same situation in 2005, with Blaylock gone and Holmes having gone down with a season-ending neck injury in early November, Johnson stepped up, and on November 20 against the Houston Texans ran for a Chiefs' record 211 rushing yards and two touchdowns. He led the league in rushing yards and touchdowns after the injury to Holmes.

2003 NFL Draft

The 2003 NFL draft was the procedure by which National Football League (NFL) teams selected amateur college football players. The draft is known officially as the "NFL Annual Player Selection Meeting" and has been conducted annually since 1936. The draft was held April 26–27, 2003 at the Theatre at Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York. The league also held a supplemental draft after the regular draft and before the regular season.

Kansas City Chiefs National Football League franchise in Kansas City, Missouri

The Kansas City Chiefs are a professional American football team based in Kansas City, Missouri. The Chiefs compete in the National Football League (NFL) as a member club of the league's American Football Conference (AFC) West division. The team was founded in 1960 as the Dallas Texans by businessman Lamar Hunt and was a charter member of the American Football League (AFL). In 1963, the team relocated to Kansas City and assumed their current name. The Chiefs joined the NFL as a result of the merger in 1970. The team is valued at over $2 billion. Hunt's son, Clark, serves as chairman and CEO. While Hunt's ownership stakes passed collectively to his widow and children after his death in 2006, Clark represents the Chiefs at all league meetings and has ultimate authority on personnel changes.

Priest Holmes American football running back

Priest Anthony Holmes is a former American football running back who played eleven seasons in the National Football League (NFL). He played college football for the University of Texas. He was signed by the Baltimore Ravens as an undrafted free agent in 1997.

Johnson in a game in 2006 Larry Johnson Chiefs.jpg
Johnson in a game in 2006

At the end of the 2005 regular season, Johnson had nine consecutive games with 100+ rushing yards, passing the 100-yard mark in every start for the Chiefs that season and earning a Pro Bowl berth. [4] During the final game of the 2005 regular season, Johnson set a new franchise record of 1,750 rushing yards in one season, despite not starting in 7 games during the season. In addition to his running ability, Johnson proved himself to be an adept receiver. In 2005, Johnson caught 33 passes for 343 yards, averaging over 10 yards per reception. Johnson was named the 2005 MVP for the Chiefs. The Chiefs' record in 2005 was 10–6, but did not make the playoffs in spite of a winning record.

Pro Bowl All-star game of the National Football League (NFL)

The Pro Bowl is the all-star game of the National Football League (NFL). From the merger with the rival American Football League (AFL) in 1970 up through 2013 and since 2017, it is officially called the AFC–NFC Pro Bowl, matching the top players in the American Football Conference (AFC) against those in the National Football Conference (NFC). From 2014 through 2016, the NFL experimented with an unconferenced format, where the teams were selected by two honorary team captains, instead of selecting players from each conference. The players were picked in a televised "schoolyard pick" prior to the game.

With injuries limiting Holmes during the previous two seasons, Johnson began the 2006 season as Kansas City's featured back. He rushed for 1,789 yards (second in the league) on 416 carries, an NFL record for most carries in a season. In an October 15 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Johnson pulled strong safety Troy Polamalu down by the hair in order to tackle him. Although tackling a player by his hair is legal and does not alone constitute unnecessary roughness, [7] Johnson was penalized for rising to his feet while retaining grasp of Polamalu's hair (pulling him up in the process). The Chiefs made an appearance in the playoffs with a 9–7 record, where Johnson ran for 32 yards on 13 carries against the Indianapolis Colts. At the conclusion of the season, Johnson was selected for his second Pro Bowl appearance.

On June 21, 2007 Johnson stated that he was willing to sit out the Chiefs' training camp unless he and the Chiefs reach an agreement on a new contract. On July 22, rumors spread about Johnson being traded to the Green Bay Packers. The initial asking price was a first-, second-, and third-round draft pick. [8] However, on August 21, Johnson and the Chiefs agreed to a five-year contract extension that locked Johnson up with the Chiefs through the 2012 season. [9] As a result of the extension, Johnson was the highest-paid running back in the NFL based on average salary per year. His new contract covered six years and was to pay him $45 million, with $19 million in guaranteed money—the biggest contract in Chiefs history.

In week 9 of the 2007 regular season, Johnson was sidelined late in the 4th quarter against the Green Bay Packers with a foot injury. The injury was season-ending, as Johnson did not see any playing time in the rest of the 2007 season and was placed on the injured reserve list. [10] Johnson ended the season with 559 yards on 158 attempts and only three rushing touchdowns. [11]

Johnson lining up in the Wildcat formation in 2008 081116Saints-Chiefs02 (cropped).jpg
Johnson lining up in the Wildcat formation in 2008

In Johnson's first regular season game since his injury, he rushed for 74 yards on 22 carries with an average of 3.4 yards per carry against the New England Patriots on September 7, 2008. The Chiefs lost the game 17–10. [12] After a loss to the Oakland Raiders the following week, Johnson spoke out about his low number of carries. [13] In his next two games, Johnson rushed for a combined 319 yards on 52 attempts with an average of 6.1 yards per carry. Johnson was suspended for the Chiefs' game against the Tennessee Titans on October 18 for violating team rules. [14] Johnson also was benched for the following game against the New York Jets. Johnson, after weeks of being inactive for the Chiefs, was suspended by league commissioner Roger Goodell for the team's week 10 game against the San Diego Chargers. [15] He finished the season with 874 yards and five touchdowns.

Johnson's 2009 season got off to a very slow start, despite Johnson keeping his starting job. As of week 8, he had 132 attempts for only 358 yards. His 2.7 yards per carry were the worst of any NFL running back with at least 70 carries. The Chiefs as a whole, and not just Johnson, struggled mightily in 2009, losing their first 5 games before winning 14–6 over the Washington Redskins. In the Washington game, Johnson had his best start of the season by gaining 82 yards on 23 attempts.

On October 27, 2009, the Chiefs "instructed Larry to refrain from practicing with the Chiefs or participating in other team activities" for his Twitter comments on Chiefs' head coach Todd Haley and reportedly using gay slurs when he addressed the media. [16] Because of his comments, Johnson encountered backlash from the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. [17] Johnson's Twitter comments were: "My father got more credentials than most of these pro coaches." That was followed by: "My father played for the coach from "remember the titans". Our coach played golf. My father played for redskins briefley. Our coach. Nuthn." [18] Johnson's tweets were responded to by fans, one tweet including a reference to the nightclub incident. Johnson's response used the word "fag". The final post read: "Make me regret it. Lmao. U don't stop my checks. Lmao. So 'tweet' away." [18] Johnson said about the incidents, "First of all, I want to apologize to the fans of the Kansas City Chiefs and the rest of the NFL, Commissioner Goodell, the Chiefs organization, Coach Todd Haley, his staff, and my teammates for the words I used yesterday. I regret my actions. The words were used by me in frustration, and they were not appropriate." [16]

On October 28, 2009, the Chiefs suspended Johnson until November 9 for "conduct detrimental to the club". [19] They ultimately agreed to a deal with his agent, Peter Schaffer, in which he would only lose one game check ($300,000). [20] At the time of the suspension, Johnson was only 75 yards from passing Priest Holmes as the franchise's all-time leading rusher. This angered several fans, who started a petition demanding that the Chiefs either deactivate, release or waive him. The petition said that Johnson "has never represented anything close to the values that we have for our Chiefs" and thus did not deserve the record. [21]

On November 9, the day Johnson was due to return from his suspension, the Chiefs waived him. Reportedly, the final straw for Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli was yet another tweet in which Johnson belittled a fan for making less money than him. Johnson's agent, Schaffer, issued the following statement: "A part of him is excited and a part of him is very regretful. There's a lot of feelings going on right now. It's analogous to breaking up with a girlfriend. Maybe you saw it coming, but it still hurts when it happens." [20]

Cincinnati Bengals

In November 2009, Johnson signed with the Cincinnati Bengals [22] for the prorated league minimum pay. Johnson served as backup to starting running back Cedric Benson. In the Bengals week 12 win over the Browns, Johnson rushed for 107 yards, his only 100-yard game of the season.

Washington Redskins

Johnson signed a three-year contract worth up to $12 million with the Washington Redskins as an unrestricted free agent on March 12, 2010. He played for former Denver Broncos coach Mike Shanahan. [23] On September 21, 2010, Johnson was released by the Redskins. [24]

Miami Dolphins

On August 23, 2011, Johnson signed with the Miami Dolphins. On September 3, 2011 the Dolphins terminated Johnson's contract during final roster cuts. He rushed for 46 yards and one touchdown on 12 carries in the 2011 preseason. However, he was re-signed on September 8 after an injury to Daniel Thomas. He was released following the Dolphins' week 2 loss to the Houston Texans when he only ran the ball once for a two-yard gain.

NFL statistics

2003 (KC)20854.31122.00
2004 (KC)1205814.892227812.62
2005 (KC)3361,7505.2203334310.41
2006 (KC)4161,7894.3174141010.02
2007 (KC)1585593.53301866.21
2008 (KC)1938744.5512746.20
2009 (KC)1323772.9012766.30
2009 (CIN)462044.40341.30
2009 (Total)1785813.3015805.30
2010 (WAS)520.400000
2011 (MIA)12200000

NFL records

Chiefs franchise records

Personal life

Johnson and his father, Larry Sr., maintain a close relationship, and Johnson has referred to his father as his "best friend". Johnson's brother and manager, Tony Johnson, is a former starting wide receiver for Penn State from 2000–2003.

Johnson appeared on the cover of the PlayStation 2 game NCAA Gamebreaker 2004 in a Penn State uniform.

In 2007, Johnson appeared in Fantasia's music video for the song When I See U . Johnson also made an appearance in Jay-Z's music video "Roc Boys (And the Winner Is)...".

In October 2013, TMZ reported that Johnson had been a recurring guest DJ at Miami strip club Tootsie's Cabaret. [27]

Because of memory loss, suicidal impulses, mood swings, and headaches, Johnson believes he has chronic traumatic encephalopathy (which can't be diagnosed until an autopsy is performed on the brain after death). [28] Johnson also states that he doesn't remember playing two seasons. [29] His method of dealing with the trauma is to control his social interactions and spend quality time with his daughter. [30]

Johnson has been arrested at least six times since 2003. Five of the arrests were on various assault charges against women, four while he was an active player in the NFL. In 2003, he was arrested for felony aggravated assault and misdemeanor domestic battery for waving a gun at his then-girlfriend, during an argument at his home. The charges were dropped when Johnson agreed to participate in a domestic violence diversion program. In 2005, he was again arrested for assault when a woman accused Johnson of pushing her to the ground, but the case was dropped after the alleged victim failed to appear in court for three hearings.

His third arrest for assault came in February 2008, after allegedly pushing a woman's head at a nightclub. [31] In October 2008 Johnson was arrested for the fourth time and charged with one count of non-aggravated assault for allegedly spitting a drink in a woman's face at a Kansas City nightclub on October 11. The woman involved filed a civil suit against Johnson, accusing him of negligence, assault and battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligent infliction of emotional distress. [32]

Johnson was deactivated for the October 19, 2008, game against the Tennessee Titans for violating an undisclosed team rule. [33] The team said his suspension for this game was unrelated to the criminal investigation.

In March 2009, Johnson pleaded guilty to two counts of disturbing the peace, regarding the two incidents in 2008, and was sentenced to two years' probation. [34]

On October 5, 2012, Johnson was again arrested in Las Vegas for domestic violence charges that include strangulation, after meeting a former girlfriend at a Las Vegas Strip hotel and casino. The 32-year-old woman was said to have had several injuries to her face and bruising on her neck. [35] He was booked into the Clark County Detention Center with bond set at $15,000 and was released after spending 18 hours behind bars. [36] He was eventually convicted of domestic violence battery and assault, was sentenced to one year of probation and ordered to pay a $345 fine, along with being sentenced to 48 hours of community service and six months of counseling. [37]

On October 7, 2014, Johnson was arrested for the sixth time after punching a man in a Miami Beach club and allegedly cutting him with a broken bottle. [38] He was charged with aggravated battery and booked into the Miami-Dade County jail with bond set at $7,500. Johnson later pleaded guilty to battery and was sentenced to 12 months' probation, 60 hours of community service, and must submit to substance abuse evaluations, in addition to staying away from the victim and the club. [39]

See also

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  22. Bengals
  23. "RB Larry Johnson Signs With Redskins". The New York Times. Associated Press. March 12, 2010. Retrieved March 12, 2010.[ dead link ]
  24. "Larry Johnson gets the boot in Washington | ProFootballTalk". September 21, 2010. Retrieved August 15, 2012.
  28. Babb, Kent. (December 12, 2017). "Ex-NFL player Larry Johnson grapples with violent urges and memory loss. He thinks it’s CTE". Washington Post, December 12, 2017. Retrieved December 13, 2017.
  29. Ron Dicker. "Ex-NFL Star Larry Johnson Can’t Remember Two Whole Seasons. He’s 38.". Huffington Post, December 13, 2017.
  30. Larry Johnson
  31. "Chiefs' Johnson faces assault charge". National Post. Canada. October 15, 2008. Archived from the original on October 28, 2008. Retrieved October 14, 2008.
  32. "Woman Sues Larry Johnson over bar spat". Associated Press. November 10, 2008. Retrieved November 10, 2008.[ dead link ]
  33. Tucker, Doug (October 16, 2008). "Chiefs' Larry Johnson to miss game against Titans". Associated Press. Archived from the original on October 21, 2008. Retrieved October 16, 2008.
  34. "RB Johnson gets probation for assaults". ESPN. Associated Press. March 27, 2009. Retrieved March 27, 2009.
  35. Curtis, Lynette. "Ex-Chiefs football player Larry Johnson arrested in Las Vegas". Las Vegas Review Journal. Retrieved October 5, 2012.
  36. "Ex-NFL star Larry Johnson arrested in Vegas". KCTV-TV via website. October 5, 2012. Retrieved October 5, 2012.
  37. Associated Press (July 23, 2013). "Ex-NFL player Larry Johnson sentenced in Las Vegas". Yahoo! Sports. Archived from the original on July 27, 2013. Retrieved July 25, 2013.

Further reading