Larry Johnson was one of the most dynamic running backs in the NFL during the mid-2000s, but now he lives his life dealing with the effects of his NFL glory and the fear that he will suffer a similar fate as Aaron Hernandez.
The former Kansas City Chiefs running back opened up about his battle with what he believes is CTE in a long-form piece by Kent Babb of The Washington Post.
Johnson detailed his daily struggle with his “demons” that often ask him to take his own life.
“One is telling you to do it; one is telling you don’t,” Johnson told Babb while standing on the balcony of an apartment building in Miami. “One is telling you it’d be fun.”
Currently, CTE only can be diagnosed when the patient is deceased, but Johnson’s symptoms (anxiety, paranoia and suicidal thoughts) mirror those of players who have had the disease.
The former Pro Bowl running back admits that he no longer can remember two full seasons of his NFL career and that a lot of his highlights have become unclear in his mind.
And then there’s the worry that he will end up like Hernandez, the former New England Patriots tight end who took his own life in prison after being convicted of first-degree murder. He was diagnosed with CTE after his death.
“I could be Aaron Hernandez,” Johnson said.
The 2002 Heisman Trophy finalist has been arrested six times, including a number of incidents where he has assaulted women.
He believes his daughter Jaylen might be the one thing keeping him from losing it.
“Johnson says he has considered violence toward others and himself, and perhaps the only reason he hasn’t acted on these impulses is sitting quietly in the back seat, looking out the window at the South Florida flatlands,” Babb writes.
The Penn State product admits there is something soothing about the possibility of his story ending in some form of self-destruction, whether that be suicide or prison.
“A bittersweet thing: I’m going to be free of everything that’s holding me down,” Johnson said. “The same way Aaron thought: I’m going to be gone from this world, but I’m still going to be able to take care of my child, because that’s all I care about.”
Johnson rushed for 1,427 yards and 55 touchdowns in 85 career games in the NFL, including a league-record 416 carries in 2006.
Thumbnail photo via Rich Barnes/USA TODAY Sports Images