Breakout Browns running back started his path to the NFL by DMing teams in a now-defunct league just hoping for a shot
- Third-string Browns running back D'Ernest Johnson had 146 yards and 1 touchdown in his first start.
- Johnson went undrafted in 2018, then DM'ed every AAF team for a shot and rejuvenated his career.
Cleveland Browns running back D'Ernest Johnson had to put himself out there to get another chance at football.
The 24-year-old, third-string running back had a breakout game on Thursday, rushing for a career-high 146 yards and a touchdown as the Browns beat the Denver Broncos, 17-14.
Johnson was thrust into the spotlight with Browns running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt sidelined with injuries. Coming into Thursday's game, he had 40 career carries for 198 yards and no touchdowns.
After Thursday's game, Courtney Kramer, a social media manager for the Dallas Stars, tweeted that Johnson messaged the teams asking for a shot while she worked with the Birmingham Iron of the now-defunct Alliance of American Football.
-Courtney Kramer (@CourtKramer39) October 22, 2021
According to CNN's Ben Morse, Johnson went undrafted and attended the New Orleans Saints' rookie minicamp but was not signed.
After leaving the Saints, Johnson briefly worked on a fishing boat out of Florida with his friend.
Johnson eventually landed with the Orlando Appollo in the AAF and thrived, racking up 332 rushing yards and 220 receiving yards in eight games.
Johnson signed on with the Browns in 2019 and has appeared in every game the last two seasons, though he mostly played on special teams.
On Thursday, in his first career start, Johnson showed a nice combination of speed, strength, and elusiveness. He averaged an impressive 6.6 yards per carry.
His performance caught the eyes of LeBron James.
-LeBron James (@KingJames) October 22, 2021
After the game, Johnson was blown away when he was told about the shoutout from James.
"LeBron? Man, that's my favorite basketball player, I'm not going to lie to you," Johnson said, adding: "That's amazing. LeBron James, appreciate it, man. That means a lot."
-The MMQB (@theMMQB) October 22, 2021
It's unclear if Johnson will get a chance to start again for the Browns, with Chubb potentially returning for Week 8. Yet his time in the spotlight likely earned him more touches and piqued the interest of other teams in need of a running back.
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