East Carolina's Chris Johnson posted the top 40-time at the Combine with a 4.24-second effort, proving all the talk about his straight-line speed wasn't just a rumor. And NFL teams have obviously taken notice of his ability to contribute to their success as an all-purpose back based on his high demand for official visits
During a phone interview while he was at the airport on Tuesday afternoon, Johnson told Scout.com that he had visited the Tennessee Titans on Monday and then with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers earlier today. He was waiting to hop onto another plane to head north to Philadephia for a Wednesday visit.
After Philadelphia, the 5-foot-11, 197-pound running back heads to Pittsburgh for a Thursday visit, and then wraps up his week in Atlanta on Friday.
But the hectic schedule isn't dimming Johnson's enthusiasm or his sense of humor.
"I was telling a friend that I feel like I'm on a world tour like a band," he said with a laugh.
Things don't get any easier for Johnson next week. He has back-to-back visits beginning on Monday, April 14th with the St. Louis Rams, the Washington Redskins, and the Dallas Cowboys before wrapping up his final visit of the two-week stretch on April 18th with the Arizona Cardinals.
Johnson's a certain first-day selection in the NFL Draft, but he's also made a convincing case for first-round consideration. A true all-purpose back, he rushed for 2,982 yards and 32 touchdowns during his career while tacking on 1,296 yards receiving and 10 more touchdowns. And he was dangerous on kickoff returns, averaging 23.6 yards-per-return on 115 chances.
Johnson had already completed private workouts for the Eagles, Cardinals and the Dolphins, but his trip on Monday to Tennessee was his first official team visit.
Chris Johnson posts the top 40-time at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.
AP Photo/Michael Conroy
"When I talked to Coach Fisher, he said that they have a bruising back in LenDale White, and they're looking for a back to complement him, and that I'd be a great fit for their offense."
Johnson was also clearly excited about the possibility of working with Tennessee quarterback Vince Young.
"I think that's a real good situation when you look at how all the backs have done in college that have played with Vince Young because he's been a threat as a runner, too," he explained. "I think he's a great player, and it would be an honor to play in the same backfield with him."
On Tuesday, the speedy back met with Buccaneers head coach Jon Gruden and the team's running backs coach, Richard Bisaccia.
"He was at my pro day, so they already know a lot about me as a player," Johnson said. "So we spent more time sitting around and talking so they could get to know me better.
"They have Michael Bennett, Warrick Dunn, Earnest Graham, Cadillac Williams. But they really don't know who the starter is right now, so that would be a good situation to go to Tampa Bay and to have an open opportunity to see who gets the starting position."
Johnson's trip to Philadelphia has an added element of excitement, because he's drawn some comparisons to Eagles running back Brian Westbrook.
"I like his game. If I got a chance to meet Brian Westbrook, that would be an honor," he said. "I'm just trying to go in there and show them that I'm a good person and that I'd be a good fit for them.
Johnson's bound to contribute immediately to his team's success as a kickoff returner. And with many teams, he should be able to push for the starter's role with his versatility, strength and speed. But for now, he's content to continue his nine-team NFL tour, grateful for the opportunity to meet with so many teams that are showing strong interest in him.
"It's a real good experience," he said. "I'm hoping I will win over these coaches, keep praying, and hopefully land in their first round."
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