Cardinals running back David Johnson breaks outside on a run during practice Monday.
This summer, as the Amazon/NFL Films series "All or Nothing" was released, running back David Johnson was asked over and over to do interviews to publicize the show.
Johnson was a natural pick. He and his wife Meghan had been among the few featured on the series. Besides, after scoring 13 touchdowns as a rookie and letting people know the Cardinals had a burgeoning star on the football field, he was a coveted interview.
Media relations manager Mike Helm became Johnson's contact man for requests, and no matter the time or the place,
Johnson never turned one down. Training camp arrived, Johnson remained in demand and still, "yes" was the default.
"We have a bet who is going to quit first, between him asking me and me saying no," Johnson said with a smile. "I think I have a good chance of beating him."
The spotlight doesn't figure to fade anytime soon. The Cardinals are a loaded offensive team, with Carson Palmer, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd and John Brown highlighting an excellent passing game and proven NFL weapons like Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington sharing the backfield.
David Johnson, though, figures to be right in the middle of it all.
Starting only five games last year, Johnson averaged 4.6 yards a carry and added 36 receptions, totaling 1,038 yards of offense despite playing little the first two-thirds of the season. This year, he'll be the main running back, the man – assuming health – getting the bulk of the carries and also a target for Palmer. Already in camp Johnson has looked excellent while running routes from the slot.
"The mismatches he's going to create in the passing game? It's scary," General Manager Steve Keim said. "It's early, but I haven't seen many like him."
If he is able to make that leap to stardom, it'd only fit into a whirlwind year. Johnson has come so far from his days at Northern Iowa, when he was a relatively unknown draft pick not too long ago. There was his arrival in the NFL. He and Meghan got married, bought their first house, they got a dog and they have a baby coming in January.
"Getting drafted in the NFL is a dream, and getting engaged is another dream," Meghan Johnson said. "And then we got a
dog, then we got married, and now I'm pregnant. It's constantly been one thing after another and it's amazing. I just feel I won't know what to do when it stops. It feels so good. Maybe a Super Bowl is in the future.
"That would feel great too."
The baby is due Jan. 29. The Johnsons have already had a discussion of their birth game plan if the Cardinals are still playing football at that point, but David feels certain he wouldn't miss a game. If the Cardinals got that far, David Johnson figures to play a major part.
The attention – which doesn't figure to fade – hasn't bothered Johnson yet. If anything, Keim noted, it's making sure the attention doesn't go to Johnson's head that may be his biggest hurdle.
"I think between Carson, Larry and everybody else giving him a hard time, he'll be fine," offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said. "I think there was a clip in 'All or Nothing' when I told him when he came to the sidelines, 'You just stay humble, you can be special.' That's the key, because we all know you can lose it at any time. I think he'll be fine getting this new notoriety."
Johnson has done that thus far, shaking his head at the idea this is the Year of David Johnson, calling it the "Year of the Arizona Cardinals" instead and praising multiple teammates and coaches by name.
"I don't feel like it's the 'Year of David Johnson,' " he said, laughing. "Now, there are definitely a lot of things going on in my life to say the least. House, dog, marriage, being in the NFL, there's a lot of stuff. I feel like something is new with me every month."
Images from Tuesday's training camp practice