Arizona Cardinals star running back David Johnson talks about bringing his 14-day-old son to Houston (0:38), why he went to Northern Iowa (2:10), Iowa State spelling his last name "Johnston" (3:28), meeting Ali Farokhmanesh (4:13), why he made such a big jump from his rookie year to his second year (6:01) and his fantasy football impact (7:29).
David Johnson was a rock in 2016, his second NFL season. He rushed for 1,239 yards and 16 touchdowns. His 879 receiving yards were more than any other running back. He was selected to the Pro Bowl and first-team All-Pro for the first time.
Considering Johnson's background, a lot of his former doubters are kicking themselves. Coming out of Clinton High School, neither major program in his home state of Iowa offered him a scholarship. Iowa State even spelled his name wrong. On this year's National Signing Day at Super Bowl Radio Row in Houston (where he traveled with his 2-week-old baby, David Johnson Jr.), he sat down for ThePostGame Podcast. Here are some highlights:
ThePostGame: It's National Signing Day. If there's anyone who's overlooked, I'd say you'd be a top name people would turn to. What do you remember about this day, years ago, sitting there and obviously you signed with Northern Iowa?
DAVID JOHNSON: It definitely wasn't as big as it is now. I only had a couple people, media there. I was signing to Northern Iowa. I only had two offers. It wasn't big D-1 schools. That's really what I remember. Me, with a whole bunch of other guys who were signing at different places. Really, just not knowing exactly what we were doing, how our life was gonna change like it did.
TPG: And the other offer was from Illinois State?
JOHNSON: Yup, Illinois State.
TPG: The question I guess I have for you, what did Kirk Ferentz, what did these big-time coaches around the Iowa area miss?
JOHNSON: I think I was about 180 [pounds], 6-1. I wasn't the most buff guy. I played receiver, running back and corner in high school, and when I went to those camps, I went receiver and running back, so I think they were kind of hesitant on where to put me. They didn't know where I play. I think that's what kind of hurt me. I was more of an athlete-type body in the way I played because I was always able to catch out of the backfield. I think that's what hurt me.
TPG: I think you've done pretty well for yourself since then. Did Iowa and Iowa State express any interest?
JOHNSON: Yeah, Iowa actually, they showed a lot. Iowa State didn't show any interest. I think they really overlooked me. They were kind of ... always regretted it. They were kind of disrespectful. They had my last name wrong: David Johnston. So I really knew for a fact they weren't keen on me. Iowa showed a little love for me. They brought their guys out as much as they could. They talked to me a lot. They just said they didn't have no scholarships-type thing. I don't know if that was true or not. I'm definitely glad I did go to UNI. I had a great experience there, coaching staff was great, learned a lot there and I'm still in the NFL doing it today.
TPG: I think the question that everyone has is have you ever met Ali Farokhmanesh
JOHNSON: Yeah! The Kansas Killer, man. The Kansas 3-point killer. I met him. He's a really cool guy.
TPG: But that was before you had arrived?
JOHNSON: It was the year before when he killed the Jayhawks.
TPG: And that did not contribute to your decision?
JOHNSON: It might have a little bit because our basketball team is so good. UNI's basketball team, they always make it. Last year, a tough loss, especially what happened, but a lot of stuff contributed to me going to UNI. I had a former Clinton guy that was there before I got there. They're really big on their Christian faith. I met with their FCA leader there, Ken Trautmann. There was a lot of stuff that contributed to me going there.
TPG: Kurt Warner, it seems like there's this Northern Iowa-Arizona Cardinals connection. Was he someone who was around when you were at UNI?
JOHNSON: No. He was already famous and doing all the big-time stuff. He wasn't around much, but I talked to him briefly and I'm so proud he's coming from Iowa, went to UNI and is now getting talked about being in the Hall of Fame. That's really cool to hear.
TPG: Has he spoken to you since you got to Arizona?
JOHNSON: Yeah, I've talked to him. He actually, I haven't even thanked him yet, but he sent me and my wife a baby present for my boy. I still got to thank him, so thank you, Kurt Warner, but I've talked to him briefly. He's talked to me how the experience is in the NFL and how to conduct myself.
TPG: What was the present?
JOHNSON: It was a variety pack of lotion, baby clothes, towels and all the ointment, everything that's essential for a baby.
Johnson spoke to ThePostGame on behalf of the FedEx Air & Ground NFL Players of the Year Award. Johnson was one of the running back nominees for the award, which went to Cowboys rookie Ezekiel Elliott.