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David and Goliath

Arizona Cardinals v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

David Johnson’s NFL story seems somewhat biblical in proportion.

Most of the star running backs in the league were college standouts at major programs—-e.g. Le’Veon Bell (Michigan St.), Todd Gurley (Georgia), LeSean McCoy (Pittsburgh), Zeke Elliott (Ohio St.), Leonard Fournette (LSU) and Saquon Barkley (Penn St.)—-and all of them entered the NFL as 1st or 2nd round draft picks.

This morning, David Johnson, a classic underdog from a small school (Northern Iowa) who did not receive any scholarship offers from big conference schools, has more guaranteed money in the bank ($30M) than every running back in the NFL except Todd Gurley ($45M) and the number 2 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, Saquon Barkley ($31M).

It is by sheer good fortune and luck for Johnson and the Arizona Cardinals that he landed in Glendale. After all, the Cardinals were ready to draft Ameer Abdullah of Nebraska in the 2nd round of the 2015 draft. After the Lions roared in and snatched Abdullah while he was on the phone with the Cardinals, in round three, Cardinals’ VP of Player Personnel, Terry McDonough, asked, “How about David Johnson of Northern Iowa?”

For the latter part of his rookie year and the duration of the 2016 season, David Johnson burst onto the NFL scene as if the lights just got flipped on at a surprise birthday party. Johnson was absolutely sensational. rushing for 1,820 yards (4.3 ave. and 24 TDs) and catching 116 passes for 1,336 yards (11.5 ave. and 8 TDs)—-plus a 108 yard kickoff return for a TD versus the Bears at Soldier Field.

Yet, David Johnson barely got out the gates in 2017, when he broke his wrist in game one versus the Lions. He was lost for the entire season. No one was sure what this injury meant to his contract negotiations. Well—-today we know.

During the off-season, Johnson returned to the Cardinals in extraordinary physical shape—-his workouts are legendary—-like performing explosive vertical leaps from a standing position out of a swimming pool. He showed everyone in the building that David versus Goliath “The Sequel” was cued up and ready to roll.

Uncharacteristically, Johnson held out during the team’s mandatory mini-camp. While Johnson has been open to the media all along about his contract aspirations—-tied very heavily to Le’Veon Bell’s negotiations with the Steelers—-it just seemed out of character for Johnson to go awol.

Like Le’Veon Bell, Johnson could have sat out of training camp and the pre-season, or he could still be at home this morning , as Bell is.

However, four days before the Cardinals’ training camp began, Johnson was back at the team facilities raring to go. He turned in an impressive training camp and pre-season performances (showing a more powerful lower-the-shoulder type approach)—-and now his contract aspirations have been honored and met by Michael Bidwill and the Cardinals, who vow to take good care of their core players. Check.

Johnson’s contract extension of 3 years at $39M with incentives that could make the deal worth $45M—-is yet another prodigious leap pf faith by Cardinals’ owner Michael Bidwill. One wouldn’t blame Bidwill for being extra cautious about taking on a new, highly lucrative contract extension, in light of the recent disappointment surrounding Tyrann Mathieu.

But—-like David Johnson—-Michael Bidwill is supremely resilient and determined.

The good news is that the Johnson negotiations won’t be hanging over the heads of the organization any longer—-when one looks at what is going on with the Steelers and Bell, that’s a demoralizing situation worth avoiding.

As for David Johnson—-the “Humble Rumble” moniker may no longer be an entirely accurate fit. Johnson is adamant that this season he wants to eclipse the 1,000 yard mark in both rushing and receiving. He well knows that he is a marked man—--but he artfully managed to slay the NFL Goliath once and now he feels very confident he can do it again—-and again—-and again—-and again.