Larry Johnson was the Chiefs’ primary running back between Priest Holmes and Jamaal Charles. Johnson, a two-time Pro Bowler, not only never approached the popularity of those two, fans once started an online petition to ask the Chiefs not to play him.
Johnson holds team records for most rushing attempts in a career, season and game and most rushing yards in consecutive seasons, 3,539 in 2005-06. He trails Charles and Holmes on the team’s career rushing list.
But Johnson never seemed to embrace Kansas City, and fans had a difficult time warming up to him.
For good reason.
Never miss a local story.
In 2003, Johnson was charged with aggravated assault and misdemeanor battery for allegedly brandishing a gun. The charges were dropped after Johnson completed a domestic-violence diversion agreement. In 2008, he was arrested twice on assault charges but pleaded guilty to two counts of disturbing the peace and was sentenced to two years of probation.
Johnson was released from the team in November 2009 just as he was coming off a two-week suspension for conduct detrimental to the team, mostly for his actions on social media.
Among his troubles on Twitter: mocking coach Todd Haley’s lack of playing experience, belittling a fan on Twitter by saying he made more money, and using a gay slur.
Chiefs fans started an online petition to ask general manager Scott Pioli to deactivate Johnson so he couldn’t break the career rushing record, then held by Holmes, and not allow Johnson in the Chiefs’ Ring of Honor. The petition gained some 32,000 signatures.
Why is Johnson a topic now?
Kansas City sports talk radio station KCSP (610 AM) scored an interview with Johnson that aired on Thursday, and Johnson offered some answers about his behavior a decade or so ago while answering questions on host Bob Fescoe’s “Fescoe in the Morning” program.
Johnson said he was to blame for his problems in Kansas City and that his biggest calming presence today is his 6-year-old daughter.
“Being 22 or 23 years old and you have such a chip on your shoulder,” Johnson said. “I didn’t know how to turn that off. I used, I would say, every negative vice that was to my disposal and I ran amok. I basically ran amok in Kansas City. When you feel so much rage and anger and you don’t know why things the way they are and you can’t control them so you lash out at everybody. That’s what being immature is. Being immature is not being able to control your emotions when things get down. It took for me literally to me have my own child to remember I’m no longer living for myself. When I was in Kansas City, in that jersey, I was living for only me. When people would see on TV that I had gotten in trouble or arrested, I’m thinking poor me, poor me, I’m the victim. …
“I didn’t understand then but I understand now that you can’t take fans for granted. You can’t take the organization that you were in for granted. Because, trust me, the perception is everything and you have to fight for the rest of your life to get back in the good graces of people that pay $75 or $80 just to go in a stadium and watch you play … it kind of makes them feel because you are running amok.”
Johnson also touched on other topics in the interview:
Origin of his anger issues
Johnson, who was the Chiefs’ first pick in the 2003 draft, said that he was upset at not starting right away. Priest Holmes and Derrick Blaylock were ahead of him on the depth chart, and Johnson thought he wasn’t sure if he fit in with the team. So Johnson thought he needed to fight with anyone to get his way.
“When I came in at Penn State there were four or five other running backs all freshmen, and it’s like, who’s going to fight it out? When I left college I didn’t think I’d be in a position to fight it out,” Johnson said. “I wasn’t even the backup to Priest, I was the backup to Derrick Blaylock. It was like, where do I fit in? Does the coach (Dick Vermiel) even want me here? So, it was like Penn State. I’ll fight anybody. And that’s what I did. Instead of just being patient, I went into practice fighting with everybody. I went to the media to fight with everybody. All that mismanaged emotion poured out. You couple that with giving a kid a million dollars. There was no end to where I was going screw up.”
End of Chiefs tenure
“It really wasn’t a conversation. It had a lot to do with, I was (75) yards away from being the all-time Chiefs leading rusher. I wanted to go back in the San Diego game when we were getting blown out and they were like no don’t go back in. So when that homophobic slur I did on Twitter and the media, that in itself was enough that they were done with the Larry Johnson fiasco that they were going to let me go.
“There was no way they were going to have me go over Priest Holmes’ (rushing) number when Priest has been such a god-like figure in Kansas City, rightfully so. He came from Baltimore and had an extraordinary career in Kansas City. They’re not going to let some rebel loud-mouth kid from Penn State with (75) yards to go and be held as the greatest runner in Chiefs’ history after what I was doing.
“If I was the coach or the owner, I would’ve done the same exact thing. I never would’ve let me touch that record. It showed way to much respect for somebody who didn’t respect anybody that time.”
“I was so not depressed,” Johnson said, “but I was involved with myself that I was the victim, I was so much in pain, so let me drink my pain away and that is how a lot of the domestic violence situations happened.
“Because men no longer want to stand up and say, ‘I’m at fault. I’m putting myself in this situation,’ … It just takes time to step back from yourself and understand that, but you have to understand that you’re the problem first before you point your finger at anybody else.”
Johnson also talked about going out on weeknights when he should have been home.
“I look back at it as a kid so wild and mismanaged, mismanaged energy, mismanaged vibes, emotions and everything,” he said. “At a point where you give me money and way too much freedom and you give me the ability to manipulate and lie to women and to make them feel like they belong to me and they were property and they couldn’t see anyone else and they had to show up when I showed up. That’s what creates an illness or sickness inside.
“I had a lot of insecurity issues when I left college. A lot of them. People couldn’t see them but I had a lot of them. I would project those feelings onto other people. So when I would go out and drink heavily and that time my drinking was getting way out of control because I was used to handling everything inside, and when I can no longer control my emotions or how I feel it spills into the club, it spills into drinking and whatever woman is with me at the end of the night, it’s going to come out. I wish I could go back and change things but if I did change things I wouldn’t be a changed man talking to you today.
“Now, I start the journey of showing her and understanding all the wrongs that I’ve done, and making sure she doesn’t end up in the situation that I put all these women in.”