Who knows more about staying clean than New York Jets running back Chris Johnson? One of the fastest players in NFL history, Johnson knows all about bursting through holes untouched and unsullied by opposing defenders.
“CJ2K” is the only player in NFL history with six TD runs of over 80 yards. ( No other player has more than three.) With three touchdown runs of 85 or more yards in 2009 (91, 89, 85), and one in 2012 (94), he’s also the only player in NFL history to register four career touchdown runs of 85 or more yards.
We spoke to him about his partnership with Mr. Clean’s Magic Eraser, how it feels to run a 4.24 40-yard dash and his monster 2009 season.
CJ2K! How is Mr. Clean doing these days?
“He’s pretty good. You gotta keep your whips and your clothes clean, and Mr. Clean is all about that.”
I made a mistake the other day. I bought these really nice white Polo shoes – low cut, crisp, the kind you wear without socks. I was looking good. That night, I had an unfortunate incident with a mud puddle on the way home. Guess who was there for me when I needed him the next day?
“Mr. Clean! The Magic Eraser does the trick, every time, especially with white clothes. It’s easy to get dirty and the Magic Eraser makes it easy to clean up.”
Coming out of East Carolina, you were drafted by the Titans and the experts were shocked. But since then, you’ve established yourself as one of the most explosive running backs ever. What bridged the gap and took you from being another fast guy who gets drafted, to being a fast guy who has a solid overall game and NFL career?
“The situation. I always ran track in the offseason and it gave me the opportunity to work on other stuff that comes natural to football; making people miss, my cuts. So I think that was an advantage I had so I didn’t have to work as hard on my footwork.”
When you were a rookie, it was you and LenDale White on the Titans backfield. I used to love the mix of your speed and him as a battering ram. How did his presence impact you?
“Coming in with a veteran was huge. He’s still my friend to this day. Having a guy like that showing you the ropes is a big deal. A lot of times you come in and you’ve got a guy who’s a first rounder coming in behind a veteran, they don’t want to help those guys because its a situation where they don’t want their position getting taken. I went in and he gave me the most help that I needed, how to be a pro. It was a pretty good situation for me.”
It always looked like you were having fun out there. I remember that game you both had against the Chiefs when you took turns blowing them up. What’s one thing that he showed you in hindsight that you wouldn’t have known?
“He showed me that even though you are fast, you’ve got to be patient. Got to be patient and let the play develop.”
Speaking of being a fast guy, what does it feel like to run a 4.25, Chris?
“Actually, it was a 4.24 (laughing). It feels very good, a great feeling.”
It never looks like you’re running fast.
“That’s what everybody says, and even when I see myself on film, it doesn’t look like I’m running fast.”
You’ve got six TD runs of over 80 yards in your career. The next closest players only have three. How do you account for that?
“It isn’t just one thing. It has to do with everything: vision, speed, once you get out in the open not getting caught, being able to make people miss. On top of that, you’ve got to have your offensive line and the receivers blocking for you downfield. There is a lot to be aware of.
What’s your favorite play: a toss sweep, a trap or what?
“Stretch play. Because it gives you a couple different holes to choose from and there’s always a cutback lane.”
Is there a run in your career that is your signature run? A play you look at after and you’re like, “That’s what I’m all about.”
“A couple years ago I had a run versus Houston. It was a trap play and I came through the hole. My offensive lineman was trying to get to the block but he wasn’t going to get there, so I grabbed him and threw him into the defender and it opened up and I ran.”
Talk about 2009, when you were named the Offensive Player of the Year. It was the most productive season in NFL history for a running back. What was different about it and how does it feel in hindsight?
“It was a situation where you’re going along and you keep putting up numbers, keep putting up numbers. And then it’s like you get in a zone. You get in a mode where you feel like you can’t be stopped. It continues to happen and it’s a situation where you feel really good.”