Born in Pomfret, Maryland, Larry Johnson grew up around Penn State football. He graduated from State College Area High School and followed his father’s footsteps to the Nittany Lions. Larry Johnson Sr. was a defensive line coach, but his son excelled on the other side of the ball.
For his first three years in Happy Valley, Johnson was mainly used as a kick returner and shared backfield duties. In 2002, however, Johnson took over as lead back for the Nittany Lions and showed the country what he could do. Despite only having the third most rushing attempts in the Big Ten, Johnson led the nation in rushing yards, with 2,087. He also scored 23 touchdowns and averaged a staggering 7.7 yards per carry, only barely missing Mike Rozier’s record due to the NCAA counting statistics gathered in bowl games beginning that year. His eye-popping statistics earned Johnson the Maxwell Award, as well as a unanimous All-American selection.
After graduating from Penn State with a degree in integrative arts, Johnson was selected with the 27th overall pick in the 2003 NFL Draft by the Kansas City Chiefs. A skilled runner and receiver, Johnson combined for over 2,000 yards from scrimmage in both 2005 and 2006 including a Chiefs record 1,789 yards rushing in 2006, the same year he set an NFL record for attempts with 416. His achievements earned him a Pro Bowl trip and All-Pro recognition for both the 2005 and 2006 seasons. After several more years with the Chiefs, where he came within 75 yards of breaking Priest Holmes’ franchise rushing record, Johnson played briefly for the Cincinnati Bengals, Washington Redskins and Miami Dolphins.