Summer 2024

20 NFL players to watch in 2020: Houston Texans RB David Johnson

Through Sept. 13, the first Sunday of the 2020 NFL season,
Sports Spectrum is highlighting one Christ-following player each day for 20 days.

Running back David Johnson is entering his sixth year in the NFL, but it will be his first in a Houston Texans uniform. The 28-year-old was traded from the Arizona Cardinals to Houston in exchange for star wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and draft picks this March.

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Johnson will be thrown into the fire with no preseason games as the projected starting running back in 2020, but he said he feels ready for the new challenge in front of him.

“I like the pressure,” Johnson told ESPN this week. “It makes me want to be better. It makes me want to compete more and do everything I can to prove the doubters [wrong] or want to make [head coach Bill] O’Brien look good and want to make this organization look good.”

Johnson hopes the change of scenery will help him return to the form he had in 2016 with the Cardinals. He ran for 1,239 yards and 16 touchdowns and grabbed 80 passes for 879 yards and another four scores, earning him first-team All-Pro and his only Pro Bowl appearance.

In Houston, Johnson joins a team eyeing a deep playoff run. Houston will have a capable second option at running back with Duke Johnson, and David thinks the tandem will be dangerous for opposing defenses.

“We’re going to be a lethal threat, me and Duke,” David said. “Not just as running, but like you said, as catching the ball. Really making defenses have to try to figure out if they go base or sub. We’re going to try to really expose their defense.”

Injuries in 2017, 2018 and 2019 capped Johnson’s effectiveness with the Cardinals. He was eventually replaced as the starter in Arizona’s backfield.

“That was the most frustrated I’ve ever been,” Johnson told earlier this month. “To be benched and be third-string — that was the lowest. I really had to lean on my family and reading the Bible after that day. That and knowing deep down that I still had the ability to play in this league.”

Faith has been a part of Johnson’s life since he was a child in Clinton, Iowa. It wasn’t until his sophomore year at Northern Iowa that he began seriously studying the Bible and, as he said on the Sports Spectrum Podcast in 2017, “really focusing in on what God has done, what Jesus has done for us and learning more about Him, and really letting God take my life.”

Soon, he was sharing his faith and leading small groups with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

Johnson says he is “Glorifying God in everything!” on his Twitter page, where he also references 1 Corinthians 9:24-27.

“Surely you know that many runners take part in a race, but only one of them wins the prize. Run, then, in such a way as to win the prize. Every athlete in training submits to strict discipline, in order to be crowned with a wreath that will not last; but we do it for one that will last forever.” — 1 Corinthians 9:24-25 (GNT)

“That’s the [verse] I’ve always really cherished and lived by ever since college, when I really started stepping into my faith,” Johnson told Sports Spectrum Magazine for the Fall 2020 issue. “That just teaches me that life — not just football or being an athlete — life isn’t easy. And you want to basically be disciplined in your faith and really fight through all the battles, fight through all the body blows, the hardships, the ups and downs, the struggles in life, not just football but life in general.

“And that’s one of the things that I’ve taught, especially at the end where it says, ‘I don’t want to be disqualified from winning the race.’ Or doing God’s deeds, being a disciple; I don’t want to cheat or do it the easy way. That’s one of the things I really cherish and that’s always in the back of my head no matter during the third week of camp, no matter during a test in college, no matter when life is hitting me hard, trying to be a parent. Anything that’s going on in life, that’s one of the verses that I always have in the back of my head.”

Johnson has never taken his position for granted. He knows that his talent on the football field was a gift from God, and he knows that God has brought him to Houston to be a light to others.

“I’m blessed, and I thank God for giving me this platform, for giving me the ability and the skill to play in this league,” Johnson said on the podcast. “I try not to get down on God. If it wasn’t for Him, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

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