David Johnson might be the most complete running back in football, which makes it even more absurd that most NFL people, just a few short years ago, had no idea who he was.
“I remember I went to the Senior Bowl, and I was talking to the scouts, (and they) didn’t know who I was,” Johnson recalled on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “I had to wear my name tag everywhere. They thought I was a linebacker.”
He wasn’t. He was a star running back from Northern Iowa.
“They ended up putting me on the South even though I was supposed to be on the North – just because no one knew who I was,” said Johnson, a 2015 third-round pick. “I went to all of the events. People thought I was working there and not really an athlete. I definitely had some trials and tribulations, and I’m thankful that I was blessed with the opportunities that I’ve had ever since I’ve been in the league.”
Johnson, 25, was a First-Team All-Pro in 2016. He rushed for 1,239 yards, caught 80 balls for 879 yards, and scored 20 touchdowns (16 rushing, four receiving).
Johnson wants to do even better in 2017. In fact, he wants to become the third player in NFL history to record 1,000 rushing yards and 1,000 receiving yards in the same season. Roger Craig, who had 1,050 rushing yards and 1,016 receiving yards in 1985, and Marshall Faulk, who had 1,381 rushing yards and 1,048 receiving yards in 1999, are the only players who have accomplished that.
“I definitely think about goals. I definitely set goals for me personally,” Johnson said. “That’s my No. 1 goal – to have 1,000 receiving and 1,000 rushing – just because two guys have done it and also because I was so close last year. Unfortunately with the injury, I wasn’t able to do it.”
Johnson sprained his MCL in a 44-6 win against the Rams in Week 17.
“I felt like I would have had a chance to do it,” said Johnson, who had three catches for 38 yards that day before exiting in the first quarter. “I was feeling good that game. I was having a good game until the injury. But I know for a fact that’s one of my main goals.”
Another one of his goals, surely, is to make millions in the NFL. Unfortunately, it’s becoming increasingly harder for running backs to do that. Johnson will make just north of $600,000 this season and doesn’t become an unrestricted free agent until 2019. Compare that to Derek Carr, who signed a five-year, $125-million contract with Oakland in June.
Nevertheless, Johnson maintains he isn’t worried about his contract – now or in the future.
“Not really,” he said. “I have so much other stuff that I have to focus on. I just (became a father). I had a boy. I think I have so much stuff to worry about that hopefully when the chance comes, I’ll be able to showcase that I’m a good player, a great player. I don’t get in trouble, I do as much as I can, and (I hope) that my playing will speak for itself and (will be) able to help me out (and) get those contracts that I hope I can get.”
Arizona, which finished 7-8-1 last season, opens the season with back-to-back road games in Detroit and Indianapolis on Sept. 10 and Sept. 17, respectively. Both games kick off at 1 p.m. ET.