View Full Version : A Good Read on our "Bad" Boy....

08-15-2006, 04:21 PM

Enjoy - Hope it's not a repost.

Johnson is so old school, he's new school
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Posted: August 15, 2006

You're all thumbs. Your opposable digits move at rapid-fire speed as they punch the controller's buttons. Video game face firmly affixed, you're not about to lose this match. Playing as the Chiefs, of course, you call your own number. A lot. By early in the second quarter, you have rushed 14 times for 191 yards and four touchdowns and have built a 41-7 lead. Gushing with superiority, you take a football and spike it on the floor inside the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Hold on. Something is wrong with this picture. It doesn't jibe with the image of a throwback who has an appreciation for pro football's history and the players who have come before -- all of which is exhibited on the level above.

Didn't your father, a longtime high school coach in the Washington, D.C., area who now coaches the defensive line at Penn State, stick a football into your crib on the day you were born? Didn't he wean you on old NFL Films tapes? Together, you watched them over and over. You played the NFL's greatest running backs tape so often, it corroded and got tangled in the VCR.

On the night before you received the Doak Walker Award as college football's best running back in 2002, didn't you listen attentively, respectfully, as Earl Campbell told you how he used to annoy Texas coach Darrell Royal by sneaking on to the Longhorns' special teams -- once even blocking a punt? You never mentioned how you blocked two punts and scored three touchdowns when you played special teams at Penn State.

Didn't you pay tribute to your NFL forebears by spending thousands of dollars to have miniature jerseys embroidered into the leather upholstery of your 2002 custom blue Mercedes-Benz G500 SUV? Among the 30 players represented are Dick "Night Train" Lane, Sam Huff, Marion Motley, Jim Parker, Lance Alworth and 15 Hall of Fame running backs.

Now, on this Friday morning in late June, you're in Canton, Ohio, inside football's hallowed Hall, and what has your juices flowing? Artifacts such as the brace that protected the fragile knee of Jets quarterback Joe Namath and the square-toed shoe of Saints kicker Tom Dempsey and the specially padded helmet worn by Chiefs linebacker Willie Lanier? How about the enshrinement gallery featuring the Hall's 229 busts? The team-by-team displays? The memorial to NFL players who served in the military?

No, you're geeked up about beating Kyle Motts, the 15-year-old son of the Hall's vice president of marketing, in Madden football, a game you can play in any other place on any other day. Explain yourself, Larry Johnson.

"Very rarely do I beat anyone younger than me in Madden."

Try again.

"Being here so many times, I might as well get a bed down here."

OK, so this is your fifth trip to the Hall. You probably could lead a tour if asked. Your dad brought you and your brother, Tony, here when you were in high school. And you made three pilgrimages while you were at Penn State, driving four hours each way from State College, Pa.

Still . . . there's trace evidence of old-school.

Like the way you run. Other backs spin, twist or dance to avoid tacklers. If there's a defender in your path, you'll muscle up your 6-1, 230-pound frame and try to run over him. Collisions are you. "He's a beast," Vikings fullback Tony Richardson, a former Chiefs teammate, says. "He loves running in between the tackles. He likes mixing it up in there and getting hit and knocked around. With Larry, the more you hit him, the more times he comes back."

Like the way you dress. Other backs wear extra protective equipment, such as elbow pads, shin guards and knee braces. You accessorize only with tape on your wrists -- you have jammed them using stiff-arms -- and gloves when it's cold. You've watched teammate Priest Holmes before a game. As he put foam pads on his knees, calves and ankles, you wondered if he might as well put on a bulletproof vest, too.

<b>Like the era you would like to have played in. "In the '50s, before they had all that unnecessary roughness stuff," you say. "Where anything could go. Guys were clotheslining, tripping, leg-whipping, scratching, biting."</b>

This may not be your decade, but it is your year. After standing in Holmes' shadow for 2 1/2 seasons, you are now the Chiefs' No. 1 running back -- a designation Herm Edwards made as soon as he was named the team's coach last January -- and every fantasy player's No. 1 draft pick. And why not? After sharing the running load for the first seven games last season, you stepped up big when Holmes suffered a season-ending neck and spinal injury. You rushed for 1,351 yards and 16 touchdowns in the final nine games, finishing the season with 1,750 yards, 20 TDs and a trip to the Pro Bowl.

Your football career has been marked by a quadrennial pattern. In high school and college, you didn't become the starter until your senior year -- and then, when you got your chance, you produced prodigiously. This will be your fourth NFL season. The rest of the league has been warned.

It's easy to prescribe patience, but it can be a vexatious virtue when you're the one trying to swallow it. You've had so many doses, it has stuck in your gullet and left a bitter aftertaste.

God, there were times you hated being a coach's son. It wasn't fair the way some of your youth league coaches treated you. They went out of their way to curtail your playing time in football and basketball rather than risk showing preferential treatment. Before your junior season in high school, Larry Sr. joined Joe Paterno's staff at Penn State and you transferred to State College Area High School, where you sat behind two other running backs. Then, as a senior, you rushed for 2,159 yards and 29 touchdowns. At Penn State, you were part of a committee of running backs that spent three seasons behind Eric McCoo until you were a senior and Paterno finally let the leash out. All you did was score 23 touchdowns and lead the nation in rushing with 2,087 yards.

Even your arrival in the NFL came amid controversy. You were the highest-rated player on the Chiefs' board when general manager Carl Peterson took a risk and made a trade with the Steelers, dropping from the 16th to the 27th spot in the first round of the 2003 draft. Dick Vermeil, then the Chiefs' coach, wanted to take Colorado defensive end Tyler Brayton at No. 27. But Peterson wasn't about to pass on you again -- especially given his concern about a hip injury Holmes had suffered late in 2002 -- and overruled Vermeil.

Talk about a prickly beginning. You couldn't understand why a team that already had Holmes -- he had rushed for 1,555 yards in 2001 and 1,615 yards in '02 -- would draft you. And the coach was miffed about not getting the defensive player he wanted. It was a tossup whether you or Vermeil was more discouraged.

As a rookie, you were inactive for 10 games and rushed only 20 times for 85 yards. You felt frustrated and isolated. There were many late-night phone calls to your father. After Penn State's season ended, he even flew to Kansas City for a face-to-face, heart-to-heart weekend.

It didn't get much better in 2004. Vermeil uttered his infamous quote about it being time for you "to take off the diapers" -- it became known as Diapergate throughout the organization -- which only deepened the chill between you and him. You were the No. 3 running back, behind Holmes and Derrick Blaylock. Finally, you went to Peterson and asked to be traded.

"I'm not going to trade you. You're too valuable to the Chiefs," Peterson told you. "Whether you like it or not, you and I are attached at the hip. You will always be my choice, and I will always be the guy who chose you. . . . You've just got to hang in there."

After consecutive rushing performances of 118, 104 and 151 yards late that season, you came into training camp last summer and energized the line with your fierce competitiveness. That attitude carried over into games. "There were times when he was as physical as we were running the ball and getting after the defensive players," left guard Brian Waters says. "You'd see him get in a lot of verbal confrontations, which sparked us because he's our guy."

You aren't just a steamroller. You have a distinctive characteristic that separates you from other punishing, downhill runners. "Typically, when you have a bruising back like that, they don't have the speed to run away from you," says Texans general manager Rick Smith. "Once he breaks a tackle, he has the speed to finish a run off and take it the distance. That's what makes him special."

Last season was exceptional, but with only 476 carries and 12 starts in three seasons, your career barely has lifted off. There are things you must do to reach cruising altitude and become a premier back. Improving in pass protection is foremost. Your missed blitz pickup of Cowboys linebacker Scott Fujita last December was costly; it resulted in a sack and fumble by quarterback Trent Green and wiped out a scoring opportunity in a game the Chiefs lost, 31-28. Becoming adept at picking up blitzes will increase your chances of staying on the field in third-down situations and give you more opportunities as a receiver. Although you're righthanded, you've been working on carrying the ball in your left hand, to protect it from being stripped on runs to the left.

The running landscape has changed in Kansas City. Holmes' career is on hold -- he's on the physically unable to perform list -- Michael Bennett was recently acquired from the Saints, and now you're the man.

About damn time.

You often wear a scowl on your face and a chip on your shoulder. You're moody --definitely not a morning person -- and aloof. You don't trust many adults. That's the persona you portray. But if the public could chip away that facade, it might be surprised by what it would find underneath.

<b>You're happiest when you're around kids. You volunteer as a coach in the Junior Player Development program, which teaches football fundamentals to pre-high school players. You were the host for an Easter egg hunt at the Chiefs' practice facility. You have adopted and donated equipment to a Kansas City T-Ball team, "L.J.'s Young Lions," whose games you attend and whose players you invite to your practices and games. You undergo a change of character around children, for whom you are a ray of light in worlds filled with too much darkness. Once, during your rookie season, a young boy knocked on your door, soliciting contributions for a school fundraiser; you wrote him a check for $2,000.</b>

You love to dance -- on the football field. Whether you're playing at home or away, standing on the sideline or in the huddle, when music plays through the stadium sound system, you start wiggling.

"We called him 'Mr. Boogie,' " Richardson says.

You take a hands-on approach when it comes to interior decoration. Each picture, wallpaper pattern and piece of furniture inside your suburban Kansas City house was personally selected by you. Among the contents that might catch a visitor's eye are several paintings by neo-mannerist artist Ernie Barnes, a former AFL player; a collection of jazz music featuring Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Etta James; a bookcase lined with organized crime novels; and a freezer door filled with boxes of Popsicles.

Your brother now lives with you on a quiet cul-de-sac 20 minutes south of Arrowhead Stadium. Tony, who played wide receiver at Penn State and is two years younger, had just joined a Pittsburgh law firm as a paralegal when, at the behest of your father, he put his life on hold last September to come to Kansas City and help manage yours.

His role is part business manager, part travel agent, part adviser -- but mostly he is a friend and confidant.

You'll turn 27 in November, but your body has absorbed moderate punishment and you haven't had any major injuries. You figure you can play another nine or 10 years. Compared with the running backs enshrined here in Canton, you barely have started on your journey, but you aspire to a grandiose ending.

"When I leave the game," you say, "I want to be known as the greatest ever at my position."

If that happens, you'll make many more trips to the Hall of Fame. They'll never give you a bed there, but you might get a bronze bust.

08-15-2006, 04:32 PM
That was a great read. Thanks.

08-15-2006, 05:05 PM
Call me a dork but that article got me all pumped up for the season. But not pumped enough to buy his expensive ass jersey....even though im tempted. :hmmm:

08-15-2006, 09:27 PM
This article is not stirring much interest....Perhaps we only want to read bad stuff about Larry?

At any rate, bump for the night crew....

Tribal Warfare
08-15-2006, 10:06 PM
LJ is one bad man. He uses his anger to give him focus it makes him strong. The darkside of the force has been good to Larry

08-15-2006, 10:19 PM
Then, as a senior, you rushed for 2,159 yards and 29 touchdowns. At Penn State, you were part of a committee of running backs that spent three seasons behind Eric McCoo until you were a senior and Paterno finally let the leash out. All you did was score 23 touchdowns and lead the nation in rushing with 2,087 yards.

This is LJ's fourth NFL season... or, his 'Senior' year. heh.

08-15-2006, 10:40 PM
This article is not stirring much interest....Perhaps we only want to read bad stuff about Larry?

At any rate, bump for the night crew....

That's the nature of the Planet (not this "planet", the planet Earth).

Bad news sells.

Personally, I hope LJ does turn out to be a good guy.

If he doesn't get into trouble, then there won't beanything getting in the way of his game.

08-15-2006, 10:43 PM
He needs to prove it for 16 games now! If not you wagonners will suck again next year!