ATLANTA – By now, you've probably heard about the pep talk former Titans running back Eddie George gave running back Derrick Henry midway through the 2018 season.
When Henry was slumping at midseason, George told him he needed to be more physical, and he needed to make the defenders pay. George told Henry his career depending on it.
Henry has credited George with changing his mindset, and his performance.
As it turns out, Johnson also chatted with Henry before he closed with a December to remember.
But his conversation came after some curiosity about the Titans plan of attack.
"I was asking, "Why weren't they using him? Why weren't they feeding him the ball?," Johnson said on Thursday from Super Bowl LIII Radio Row. "It seemed like right after that game when I left, they started feeding him the ball, and he showed what he could do. Good things happened when they gave him the football."
Johnson was in Nashville for the team's Homecoming Game on December 2 vs the Jets. He served as the Honorary 12th Titan that day.
In five games in the month of December, Henry's rushing totals included 97 carries for 625 yards and eight touchdowns. His 625 yards were the most by any NFL player in any calendar month this season. Henry was named the AFC's Offensive Player of the Month for December.
"When I talked to him, I just told him to keep his head up, that his time is going to come," Johnson said of Henry. "He's a good back, a real big guy. He kind of reminds me of Eddie George with his size, but I wouldn't say he runs like Eddie George. I haven't seen that yet. But he is a big guy who has speed, and he's very hard to tackle."
Henry set a franchise record with 238 yards in a game vs. the Jaguars, and he piled up 170 yards a week later in a win over the Giants.
Henry broke Johnson's record for most yards in a game against the Jaguars, when he also tied the NFL record with a 99-yard run. Henry's final numbers for 2018: 215 carries, 1,059 yards and 12 touchdowns, with a 4.9 yard average.
"That was a great run," Johnson said of Henry's 99-yard run vs the Jaguars. "He stiff-armed some people, broke some tackles, and set the record for the longest run in the league. It was a great run. I'd say he's a pretty good back for sure. He just has to continue to run hard, and he'll be alright. I like him."
With 7,965 yards, Johnson departed as the franchise's No. 3 all-time rusher behind George (10,009) and Earl Campbell (8,574).
Johnson's run with the Titans was highlighted by a 2009 season when he became just the sixth back in NFL history to eclipse the 2,000-yard mark in a season.
Johnson, who played for the Titans from 2008-2013 before finishing his career with the Jets and Cardinals, was on Radio Row on Thursday promoting a clothing line (Wealthy War Intentions) that comes out later this year.
He's also coming out with a toothbrush, called Sta-Brite, which has a detachable top, and floss inside.
"It's pretty cool," Johnson said. "You can brush your teeth and have the floss at the end as well."
Johnson said on Thursday he's always rooting for the Titans. He enjoyed his visit back to Nashville on December, when he stuck the sword into the turf and was cheered by the Nissan Stadium crowd.
Johnson officially announced his retirement at the end of last year. He considers himself a "Titan for Life."
"It was pretty cool, to come back where I started at," Johnson said. "All the love they showed me, it made me feel good. I'll always be pulling for the Titans."
A first-round pick (24th overall) by the Titans in 2008, RB Chris Johnson became just the sixth player in NFL history to rush for over 2,000 yards in 2009. He earned three Pro Bowls and was the NFL's Offensive Player of the Year in 2009. (Photos: Donn Jones, AP)
Titans Online looks back at RB Derrick Henry's 2018 season, in which he rushed for a career-high 1,059 yards and 12 touchdowns. (AP Photos)