Giants' Johnson happy with life down on farm

On The NFL

March 12, 2000|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

LeShon Johnson is one NFL player who doesn't need an off-season workout program.

The New York Giants' running back works every day on his 12-acre ranch outside Tulsa, Okla., that features 10 horse stalls.

Johnson bought the place this year near his father's 16-acre spread, and he's a hands-on owner who does everything, including cleaning out the stalls.

"My wife gets on me every day that I'm out there doing all the work [even though he hired a ranch hand] instead of sitting back in the house," he said with a smile.

Johnson likes to keep active. It beats the alternative, like fighting cancer.

Johnson, who was in Baltimore last week for the Ed Block Courage Awards Banquet after being named the Giants' winner for the 1999 season, was one of the most inspirational stories in the league last year.

He made it back to the Giants after sitting out the 1998 season because a routine chest X-ray on May 8, eight days after his wedding, revealed he had lymphatic cancer. Johnson's cancer is now in remission, but it wasn't an easy fight.

The chemotherapy made him sick, causing him to lose his appetite and patches of his hair. While receiving nourishment intravenously, he lost 20 pounds in a 10-day hospital stay.

Then there was the five-day-a-week radiation treatment.

Through it all, he credits his wife, Nalani, a fitness trainer who has competed as a bodybuilder, for pushing him to work out.

"She was there for me to lean on when I needed someone," he said. "And there were times when she'd tell me, `You're soft.' "

Johnson's return to the Giants won him the admiration of his teammates and coaches.

"The guy was amazing," Giants coach Jim Fassel said. "He always had a smile on his face in the locker room. He was an inspiration to the other guys."

Johnson got another dividend when he recently found out his wife is expecting their third child in September. He had feared the treatment would leave him unable to have more children.

When Johnson's playing days are over, he wants to follow in his father's footsteps and compete in the rodeo. He looks forward to wrestling steers.

Even though he played mostly on special teams last year (he carried 61 times for 143 yards) and he doesn't know what his future with the team is, he says he has more football left and can do better than he did last year.

"I never felt like I was in a groove," he said. "I felt like I was getting tackled too easily."

No matter what happens, though, Johnson is enjoying each day as it comes.

"When the guy from from Kansas City [Derrick Thomas] passed away, I was thinking you might as well enjoy life while you can. You never know when you're going to leave this earth," he said.

Maryland's Team?

Tre Johnson, the Washington Redskins' offensive lineman who was the winner of his team's Ed Block Courage Award, caused a stir among Baltimore fans at the banquet last week when he said the Redskins would be the No. 1 team in Maryland this year.

Since the Ravens and Redskins play this fall, they can decide that issue on the field.

Although Johnson is one of the few Redskins who lives in Maryland instead of Virginia, there's a larger question of whether the Redskins can be called a Maryland team even though they play in Landover.

New owner Daniel Snyder hasn't made it official yet, but all indications are that he is yanking the team's training camp out of Frostburg and moving it to the team's training facility in Ashburn, Va.

Meanwhile, Frostburg officials are annoyed that Snyder has yet to tell them what he plans to do about camp.

Workouts

The three top prospects in this year's college draft -- in alphabetical order -- LaVar Arrington and Courtney Brown of Penn State and Peter Warrick of Florida State -- will have their individual workouts this week, and they may determine which one Cleveland will select with the first pick.

The Browns previously indicated they would take Warrick, but now they're talking up linebacker Arrington and defensive end Brown.

"For a long time, it was Peter, Peter, Peter," said Cleveland vice president Dwight Clark. "Now, it's maybe we should look at these other guys. They're pretty darn good. They are just unbelieveable specimens. It's like somebody chiseled them out of granite."

Arrington is suddenly being touted as the hot candidate. The linebacker says he'll shock the world at the workout, and if he runs the 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds, the Browns could be persuaded. Clark likened him to Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor.

What Clark could be doing is sending a message to the Redskins, who have the second and third picks and were figured to take Arrington and offensive lineman Chris Samuels of Alabama.

They want Samuels over Brown because they need a left tackle and just signed Bruce Smith and Marco Coleman to play defensive end.

Clark could be warning the Redskins that if they don't trade up to the top spot, they could lose Arrington to the Browns and be left in a quandary because they don't seem interested in Warrick.

Lowering the boom

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