Chris Johnson was born in Gladewater and graduated from Pine Tree High School in Longview. He did not have an easy life, and lost a sister to domestic violence which made things even harder for him. Fortunately, unlike many young men who make wrong choices, Chris got his life together and made it to the NFL as a member of the AFC Champion Baltimore Ravens. Chris is listed third on the depth chart at right corner.
We had a chance to visit with him about his journey into the NFL on Media Day at the New Orleans Superdome on Tuesday. We asked if he had always known he’d make it to the NFL some day. “It’s great, and I always tell people that. When I was in seventh grade back at Pine Tree, and I wish I could remember my teacher’s name, she asked different classmates what they wanted to be when they grew up. Some said doctors, lawyers and normal stuff, and I told her I wanted to be an NFL player. I remember that she told me that 1% of everyone hoping to would make it to the NFL. I was actually telling one of my friends yesterday that I wish I could remember that lady’s name so I could go back to her and tell her I was in the 1%. When I left Pine Tree, I always dedicated myself to football and track, and the thing that got me into the League was my speed—my speed and God, so just being from a small town, to be able to be on this stage today is a true blessing.”
We asked Chris if his teacher basically telling him he probably couldn’t make it to the NFL inspired him more to make it. “Oh yeah, and that’s why I go back and speak to different kids in East Texas sometimes. I was a troubled kid in high school. It’s like troubled kids get pushed off to the side because they really don’t want to deal with you. It’s bad to say, but it’s the truth. They basically say you’re not ever going to be anything, and some kids actually start living that. I go back and say that I’m a true testimony from either being dead or in jail to being a pro player. There’s nothing that you set your mind to that you can’t do. That’s my speech when I go home to speak, because there might be one or two that’s maybe better than I’ve ever been, but they just need somebody to pull that out of them. I’m always trying to encourage all young high school kids to be what they want to be.”
He has been in the NFL for nine years and has been around a lot of the best players in the League. We asked him just how big it has been for him to be on the same team with Ray Lewis this year.
“That was one of the reasons I came here. When I asked to be released in Oakland, my prayer was to be able to play in Baltimore because of Ray Lewis, not knowing that he was going to retire this year, and God answered my prayer. I tell people now that Ray Lewis is one of the guys that is superior. There will never be another Ray Lewis ever. The things that he says and the time that he says it, it’s amazing. Being a spiritual person and hearing all his words, I feel they are actually coming from God. What he says you just can’t write that and practice it in the mirror, so you know he’s a real man and he’s a very respected man around this league.”
We also asked how much it would mean for his team to win the Championship on Sunday. “Man, it would be a true blessing. They never remember second place, no matter who plays. To be able to walk on this field Sunday with the confetti dropping on us would be a true blessing and an honor for me and this team.”
You have to root for a man this open and honest about his life. He deserves to be able to enjoy the thrill of victory Sunday night. His team is the underdog, but don’t count them out. The Ravens could very well win the game. It should be an exciting contest, for sure!