Absolutely exquisite cards I wanted to get Larry to sign. Unfortunately the parallel gold version of the base card I originally sent was never returned. Still I was happy to get both of these set needs signed out of the Rookies & Stars set from 2009.
Larry Johnson was a star runningback for the Penn State Nittany Lions in 2002. He was a virtuoso out of the backfield, both catching and running for the team and truly was a man among the boys. He’d carry the ball 271 times for 2087 yards and 20 TDs- for a hefty 7.7 yards per carry clip. He’d also catch 41 passes for 349 yards and 3 more scores. He’d finish 3rd in Heisman voting that year behind Iowa QB Brad Banks and USC QB Carson Palmer.
In what was considered to be a weak runningback crop, Larry was selected 27th overall during the 2002 NFL Draft, and was the second RB off the board- after Willis McGahee.
The Chiefs have been going through a renaissance of sorts at runningback over the last 20 years or so. It pretty much started when Priest Holmes jumped into the lead role in Kansas City in 2001. After 3-4 years of solid production with a few games here and there, it was time for Larry to go from being the most solid injury insurance handcuff, to the lead back in KC.
Larry began to assert himself as the lead back in 2005. He’d earn his first of 2 Pro Bowl berths, with 336 carries for 1750 yards, and 20 TDs. Johnson also had 33 receptions for 343 yards and a TD. In 2006, Larry actually topped those numbers, leading the NFL in touches (457) and carries (416- an NFL record), run for 1789 yards and 17 TDs while catching 41 passes for 410 yards and 2 TDs. While Larry did not see the same heavy workload the rest of his career, he’d rush for 559 yards in an injury plagued campaign in 2007, and 874 yards in 2008.
After an acrimonious 2009, Larry was cut midway through the season and finished the year on the roster of the Cincinnati Bengals with 581 yards on 178 carries. During the journeyman phase of his career, Larry spent time on the rosters of the Redskins (2010) and the Miami Dolphins (2011), before finally deciding to retire.
After Curt Warner’s run for glory in Seattle, Penn State had a really bad run of backs come out in the first round who just didn’t make the cut. DJ Dozier, Blair Thomas, Ki-Jana Carter, and Curtis Enis come straight to mind. It wasn’t until 2005, when LJ had his first impact season, that the ‘Penn St Curse’ of runningbacks to come out of college to the pros was lifted.
Johnson has had multiple brushes with the law, possibly due to CTE, as he fits all the hallmarks for the disease. Larry’s done some articles and been interviewed about it- and I feel absolutely terrible for him. I wrote him back in 2014, but did not get a response. This time around he signed these cards pretty promptly.
These are some great cards of Larry that I really liked. The Pacific, while very plain looking is classy and elegant. Upper Deck assumed stewardship of the brand in its final days and really sent them out on a nice, high note. The Upper Deck 2009 has clear and strong photography. The framing and color feels like it was inspired by the Upper Deck Legends 1997 set. – And of course, I can never get enough of the Score 2009 set. It just could’ve used a little sports photo blur on the background, as the expression of that guy with the Patriots sweater on is a bit distracting.
Celebrating the game, the players, the cards, and the autographs for over 25 years.