Former East Carolina RB Chris Johnson indicated Thursday that he's proud of his former school for accepting an invitation into the Big East as a football-only member earlier this week.
Johnson, an All-Pro with the Tennessee Titans, ended his East Carolina career with 2,982 rushing yards -- third-most in school history. In 2007, Johnson tied the school record for touchdowns in a season with 17.
In Johnson's freshman season in 2004, ECU was 2-6 in Conference USA and 2-9 overall. The Pirates won nine games each in 2008 and 2009. Through 12 games this year, they are 8-4 in coach Ruffin McNeill's third season.
“I think it's a very big accomplishment coming from Conference USA and winning one or two games every year to being in the Big East and now winning seven or eight games a year.”
In Johnson's final game of his college career, he set an NCAA bowl record with 408 all-purpose yards in a 41-38 win over Boise State in the Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl. With 1:25 left in regulation, though, a Johnson fumble was returned 47 yards by Marty Todman for a game-tying touchdown. The Pirates won the game on a 34-yard field goal by Ben Hartman with no time remaining.
“To be honest the biggest play I remember is my fumble because we almost lost the game on that play,” Johnson said.
Johnson could have benefited from the increased exposure of playing in a bigger conference. The Titans selected the speedy back with the No. 24 overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft. Since entering the league, Johnson has 6,587 rushing yards and 42 rushing TDs. By comparison, Raiders RB Darren McFadden (No. 4 overall pick) and Panthers RB Jonathan Stewart (No. 13 overall pick) have combined for 6,918 rushing yards and 45 TDs.
There are nine Pirates in the NFL, including Johnson, Giants DT Linval Joseph and Ravens FB Vonta Leach.
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