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No Pressure


More by Ed Fulda
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Running back Larry Johnson is the latest first round draft choice of the Kansas City Chiefs. By all accounts, he has an immense amount of talent. He comes from an illustrious college program (Penn State). He also seems to have his head screwed on straight. That last asset should come in handy given that the Chiefs may have to throw him into the breech if Priest Holmes isn't healthy by the time season starts. The only problem is that the Chiefs have had miserable luck with running backs they have taken in the first round.

Larry is the ninth RB selected in the first round by the Texans/Chiefs. The first two, Ronnie Bull (1962) and Gayle Sayers (1965), decided they would rather play for the NFL's Chicago Bears. They did some marvelous stuff for "Da Bears," but they were wasted picks for the Chiefs.

Jeff Kinney (1972) spent five seasons in KC, but his main value was to serve as a warning to other teams that you don't select Nebraska RBs in the first round. Woody Green (1974) barely made it three seasons and had trouble staying on the field because of injuries. Ethan Horton (1985) was a classic case of "looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane." He was gone a year later. The selection of Horton was especially galling since the player who was selected right after him was Jerry Rice. Yes, THAT Jerry Rice. John Mackovic still deserves to be smacked for that bone-headed decision.

In 1987, Frank Ganz took runners in the first and second rounds. Fortunately, the second rounder, Christian Okoye, soon made everyone forget how bad the first round pick, Paul Palmer, was. Palmer was gone as soon as Marty Schottenheimer took over two years later.

Marty later laid a couple of eggs himself, however, when he wasted first round picks on Harvey Williams (1991) and Greg Hill (1994). Maybe "wasted" is the wrong term, as both runners did a few things to earn their keep. They just didn't do enough.

Given the lack of success enjoyed by your predecessors in KC, Larry, you won't have to do much to rise to the head of the class. You also won't have to do much to rise to the number two slot for Penn State RBs taken in the first round. You're the eighth one taken in the first round since 1970 and only one, Franco Harris (1972), became a star. John Cappelletti (1974) barely managed to put up Jeff Kinney-like stats. The
rest - Curt Warner (1983), D.J. Dozier (1987), Blair Thomas (1990), Ki-Jana Carter (1995), and Curtis Enis (1998) - rank right down there with Ethan Horton.

As you can see, Larry, there is absolutely no pressure on you to perform. You're from Penn State, you were chosen in the first round, and you were selected by the Chiefs. History is on your side. Put in a couple of mediocre seasons and fade into obscurity. No one will be surprised. I just hope that you're made of sterner stuff.






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