Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson was named the Associated Press Offensive Player of the Year today.
Johnson entered the league with a 4.2 on his 40, easily considered the fastest man in football, and has since exemplified that speed with two stellar years in the NFL.
Among his many accomplishments, Johnson was the first NFL player to finish with at least 2,000 yards rushing and 500 receiving. In 2009, he set the league record with 2,509 yards from scrimmage while becoming the sixth player in league history to finish a season with at least 2,000 rushing yards.
He finished the season with 16 touchdowns (14 rushing), second only to Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings. He also tied the NFL record for six consecutive games rushing for at least 125 yards.
Johnson became the first player to run for three touchdowns of 85 yards or more in a season, something no NFL player has ever done in a career, much less a single season. In the Titans' last game against the Seahawks, Johnson once again rushed for 100 yards, his 11th consecutive game of 100 yards or more. He’ll enter the 2010 season with the goal of eclipsing Barry Sanders' old mark of 14 consecutive games set down in 1997.
Those numbers garnered the young back with 38.5 votes from a panel of 50 sportswriters and broadcasters who regularly cover the NFL. Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints received nine votes, Peyton Manning of the Indianapolis Colts received one-and-a-half votes, and Phillip Rivers of the San Diego Chargers earned one.
"I kind of realize what I did and I feel like I had a dream season," Johnson told the AP. "I didn’t even get one vote at all [for MVP]. Like the season I had, it seemed like, ‘What more do they want me to do?’ That just felt like rookie of the year; it’s a quarterback thing I guess."
Johnson is referring to the 2008 season when Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan helped carry his team to a playoff berth and beat out Johnson for the Rookie of the Year Award.
Johnson’s aim this year was to overcome Eric Dickerson’s record of 2,105 rushing yards from scrimmage set down in 1984 with the Los Angeles Rams, though he came up a few yards short.
"That gives me something to look forward to next year," he said. "You go for 2,000 yards. I don’t know what you can really say that makes you want to work harder or anything like that, so it’s a good thing and a bad thing me not getting the record."
For now, LenDale White, the Tennessee second stringer, watched humbly as his counterpart set his records and took the majority of the snaps. In 2008, White was the bruiser of the team, scoring 15 touchdowns and running for 773 yards.
He doesn’t hold any ill feeling towards Johnson. "I took a backseat to greatness," he said.
The Titans started the 2009 season losing six straight before turning the ship around with new quarterback Vince Young, and Johnson’s performance was key to making the change.
"I’m just happy to be a part of it, to make history with him," Young noted. "He’s going to be a great player. This is just his second year, that’s the crazy part."
Johnson falling shy of Dickerson’s mark will surely drive him into the 2010 season, and we can expect bigger and better things from this young man. No one has ever rushed for 2,000 yards twice in a career, but if anyone can do it, it looks like Johnson is the man.
Coach Jeff Fisher has all the confidence in the world for his young back. "I think he’s one player that has a chance to do it again. He’s young. He’s special. He has the potential to go the distance and change games and do those kinds of things."
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