From FedEx Field
“I was getting calls and e-mails and texts all hours of the night. Guys that I played ankle-bitter football with, guys I played PAL (Police Athletic League) with, guys I went to high school with. It was great to come here and get a win in the city I was born in.”
Sunday was a homecoming for Larry Johnson. Yes he went to high school in State College, Pennsylvania, played his college ball there too at Penn State.
But it was in the Washington D.C. suburbs where Johnson was born and where he spent his formative years as his father was coaching high school football. Larry Sr. remains a legend in Maryland high school football for his nine seasons (1983-91) coaching at Maurice J. McDonough High School in Pomfret. That’s in Charles County, southeast of the District of Columbia. McDonough won three Maryland 3-A state championships under Larry Sr., and his record there was 139-36.
He went on to coach for two seasons (1992-93) at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Virginia. That’s the program made famous in the movie Remember the Titans.
Larry Jr. was 17 years old when his father got a job on Joe Paterno’s coaching staff with the Nittany Lions. So a lot of childhood memories for L.J. came in places like Pomfret and Alexandria and other small burgs around the nation’s capital.
It was there that he watched all those NFL Films tapes about great running backs. The team he followed as a kid was the Redskins, not only because they were there, but because Larry Sr. had gotten a chance to make the Redskins when he came out of college as an NAIA All-America at Elizabeth City State in North Carolina.
“I enjoy seeing those uniforms of theirs and it brings back memories for me,” said Johnson. “They were a good team in the day, winning Super Bowls with all those guys like John Riggins and the Fun Bunch and the Hogs.”
That’s a lot of L.J. history. There are some Chiefs fans who think L.J.’s ability to run the football is history. It’s been a struggle to run the ball for this Chiefs team and the guy paying the price for that is Johnson.
Sunday was a better day however, although the final numbers do not look that impressive: 83 yards on 23 carries, a 3.6-yard per carry average. It was Johnson’s best rushing day of the season so far, but the overall numbers are not very pretty: 309 yards on 116 carries for a 2.7-yard average.
The Chiefs as a team are averaging just 98 yards rushing per game and 3.4 yards per carry.
“The rushing game hasn’t been what it has been,” Johnson said. “It’s been tough for those guys upfront in the last couple weeks. Those guys were awesome today. As long as they stay with me and I stay with them, it will all start to fall together and we can make things happen.
“The culture here, no matter the GM or coach, the Kansas City Chiefs have always been about the running game. Go back to Ed Podolak, to Marcus Allen, to Priest (Holmes) and Tony Richardson. The running game is what fuels this organization.
“Everyone who has come into the organization is starting to realize that now. It felt good to be able to crack some runs today and get some runs that were over five, six, seven yards.”
Johnson had a 17-yard run in the second quarter, and then came back and had a 12-yard run in the third period. Those are two of the longer runs on the season so far for him.
“We could have put them away a lot sooner,” said Johnson. “We didn’t have to drag on into the third and fourth quarter. Against a really good team we are going to have to learn how to put them away earlier. I’ve been here I’ve seen it all.
“It’s not exactly a perfect win,” Johnson added. “The defense did an awesome job of making plays when they had too.”
With that, Johnson was out the door headed to see some of those people who were calling, texting and e-mailing him all week.
“I’m going to enjoy this,” he said.