Steve Keim, Cardinals GM
David Johnson staring intently.

Up at dawn

Unless the baby wakes you first. Who said two PB&Js aren’t breakfast? Two PB&Js are most definitely breakfast. Play with the little man until the second you have to leave. A whole day of training ahead—it’s never easy to walk out the door.

Seven a.m. and it’s already 90°. The heat takes you back to when you were a kid working all summer in those endless cornfields, detasseling stalk after stalk. You couldn’t think about all the hours left in the day, about the great expanse of field ahead. You learned to lock in, plant by plant. You learned to have faith in each and every step.

David running through a pair of tackling dummies.Close up photo of David grimacing after a workout.

Ground and pound. Again. And again. The field is forever and you’re just getting started. One step and then the next. It will all pay off in the end zone.

David pulling a weighted sled.
David doing a pullup wrapped in weighted chains.
David working out with battle ropes.

It’s not supposed to be easy. And it wasn’t. Fresh from setting high school records, ready to step onto the big stage, you spoke to that coach from that big-name school we won’t mention, and the guy flat-out told you, to your face, you weren’t good enough to play D-I. That you didn’t have the stuff.

You almost believed him for a minute, too.

Eventually you learned what to do with nonsense like that…

David chalking his hands before a set.

58 yard td

Week 6, 2016

Xavier Williams, Cardinals Nose Tackle
0Total Yards
0Total TDs
0100+ Yard Games
Carson Palmer, Cardinals QB
David tossing a football in the air.

You’re a family like any other

Driving home down Route 60 in the low evening sun—you just happen to be coming from University of Phoenix Stadium where you spent the afternoon in battle and prompted giddy TV announcers to exclaim things like, “Look at that stutter-step by Johnson!” and “We need to start talking about David Johnson becoming an MVP in this league.”

David walking with his duffle bag.Davids son's baby shoes hanging from his rear view mirror.

To be a man. It feels like a definition that expands with every year. Just when you think you’ve got one part of it down, here comes another lesson.

David playing with his son, David Jr, while his cross necklace hangs down.

An injury. A newborn son. It’s pretty amazing that a guy as small as one-year-old DJ can teach you so much about what things mean: a father, a husband, a teammate. Of this much you’re sure: as a family you always need to support one another, high times and low. This is the foundation on which everything else rests.

David playing with his son, David Jr.
The Johnson's in a family photo.
Silhouette of David's wife, Meghan, kissing his forehead.

When you were hurt, the hardest part was not being out there on the field, helping your brothers. Next season can’t come soon enough. It’s already playing in your head. How you’ll emerge from the tunnel and yet again take in that long green field laid out in front of you.

As your feet hit the grass, you’ll run―as always―to the opposite end zone, where you’ll take a knee: for gratitude, out of respect, in humility. A last quiet moment where you can find your poise, where you can ask for the courage to give it everything you’ve got until the last whistle of a hard-fought game where everyone stays safe, no matter their uniform. And where you can remember, once again, just how blessed you truly are.

David's autograph.