Former ECU star Johnson is excelling in the NFL

Published 1:44 am Tuesday, September 30, 2008

By By STEVE FRANKLIN, Sports Writer
Before the season, Tennessee Titans rookie Chris Johnson made a list of lofty goals.
No. 1 — Become the team’s starting running back.
No. 2 — Help the Titans make the playoffs.
No. 3 — Win the NFL’s Rookie of the Year Award.
No. 4 — Make the Pro Bowl.
It’s a list that only a handful of running backs have ever accomplished. A daunting task. But in Johnson’s eyes, anything else would be unacceptable.
The list of goals is similiar to what Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson accomplished last season. So, who better to seek advice from than the man they call “All Day”?
This summer, Johnson bumped into Peterson at an NFL gig in Florida.
The former East Carolina University star immediately began quizzing the reigning Rookie of the Year.
So far, so good.
Johnson has already crossed No. 1 off the list, taking over for LenDale White as the team’s top running back in the second game of the season.
And he’s got a good start on the other three goals as well.
Through four games, Johnson is second in the AFC in rushing with 337 yards, trailing only Kansas City Chiefs star Larry Johnson who took the lead from the Titans rookie this week after logging 198 yards against Denver on Sunday.
Johnson made an immediate impact once he arrived in Nashville.
In his first NFL game, the budding star toted the ball 15 times for 93 yards and caught three passes for 34 yards, including his first NFL touchdown on a seven-yard toss from Vince Young to help lead Tennessee past Jacksonville, 17-10.
The superb play didn’t stop there.
The following week, Johnson logged his first 100-yard rushing game as a pro, gashing Cincinatti for 109 yards to lead the Titans to a 24-7 win.
Then this past Sunday, Johnson scored the first two rushing touchdowns of his career, scoring on runs of one and seven yards to help the Tennessee beat Adrian Peterson and Minnesota, 30-17.
He’s one of the primary reasons that the Titans are 4-0 for the first time in franchise history.
Johnson is one of only five NFL players to have at least 50 rushes and average five yards per carry, joining Peterson, Earnest Graham, Julius Jones and fellow rookie Darren McFadden.
The former Pirates’ star is second among all rookie running backs in total offense, averaging 100.5 yards per game, behind fellow Conference USA draftee Matt Forte out of Tulane, who is averaging 123.6 yards of total offense for the Chicago Bears.
Despite the early success, Johnson is remaining grounded.
A better Chris Johnson? Not exactly what 31 other teams want to hear.