By Patrick Hruby
Page 2

He's a fantasy football stud, a legitimate threat to break the NFL's single-season rushing record someday and the best reason yet to forget that Grandmama ever existed. Shudder. He's also an avid "Madden" player, and a little bit in awe of Jake Delhomme's thunderous home run stroke.

So what's on Larry Johnson's mind? Page 2 posed 10 Burning Questions -- well, more like two dozen -- to the Kansas City Chiefs running back:

What's it like being everyone's No. 1 pick in fantasy football?

Larry Johnson: It's crazy. My mom is trying to buy every single magazine that has me on the cover. People are always coming up to me, telling me where they drafted me and what they need to win in their leagues. You have to take it in stride and hopefully live up to the hype.

So random people just come up to you?

Man, I get it everywhere. But that's the best part about it. Anybody can be a fan. You can be a Raiders fan and still root for a player like me. It's great that it draws more attention to each individual player.

Do you play fantasy football yourself?

Nah, I never really got into it. My brother has a team. I think my mom has one, too.

Did they at least have the good sense to pick you?

Oh, I'm on their teams. [Laughs] I have to be!

Last year you ran for almost 1,800 yards and scored 20 touchdowns despite starting only nine games. During the offseason, you said that you still feel as though you have a lot to prove as a player. Really, what do you have to prove?

As far as knowing that I'm in a situation now where I'm everybody's fantasy pick, that's a lot of pressure! [Laughs]

I have to see if I can do it for 16 games, live up to the expectations I have for myself. I always want to strive for a little bit more. If everybody feels like I need to have 200 yards and three TDs per game, I feel like I need to get 300 yards and four TDs. Sometimes I let that get the best of me, as far as being frustrated and things. But I'm the kind of person who wants everything to be perfect.

Speaking of perfection, a lot of people feel you have a good chance of breaking the NFL single-season rushing record at some point in your career. What do you think?

I really want to try to do that. If I was given a chance, I think I could have done it last year. But Priest [Holmes] was starting. Hopefully, I can get to the point where I can reach that plateau.

Your dad coaches at Penn State and was a legendary high school coach in the Washington, D.C., area. When you were stuck behind Priest Holmes, what advice did he give you?

He basically told me that you have been in this situation before, and that I know what comes with it -- the good and bad of not playing right away. He also told me that even though you're sitting on the bench and not playing, you should soak up as much info as possible. Learn the offenses and practice hard to show the coaches that you can play at this level.

You made the Pro Bowl last year. We've always thought the NFL should forget Hawaii and hold the game in Las Vegas. What do you think?

I'd like that. They're scared of the gambling coming into play, but as far as having fun, put it in Vegas and it would be like the Super Bowl. Everybody would come out for it.

Do people ever confuse you with Larry Johnson, the former NBA player?

Nah, nah. [Laughs] He hasn't been in the news for a long time.

Who will retire first from Penn State -- your dad, or Joe Paterno?

Joe Paterno. He's gonna announce his resignation today. [Laughs]

You blocked two punts while playing at Penn State. Any chance we'll ever see you covering a kickoff or punt or field-goal attempt again?

That will never happen. It's way too risky. They wouldn't let me do it if I wanted to.

Do you want to?

Nah, I'm good. [Laughs].

Penn State fans were pretty ticked that you didn't win the 2002 Heisman Trophy, and some felt the school's rule of not having Heisman marketing campaigns hurt your chances of winning the award. How do you feel about that?

It wasn't really a big deal. I thought my play on the field was enough marketing for me. I was part of an elite class of guys that were also in the running for the Heisman. I have no problem losing to a Carson Palmer or anybody else that could have won it. It was out of my hands.

Let's go to another heated competition. You appeared on ESPN's "Battle of the Gridiron Stars." How did you do on the rock climbing compared to guys like Peyton Manning and Chad Johnson?

I think I did pretty good. Chad climbed pretty well considering he wasn't as heavy as me. But I was able to hold my own in the event.

What was the hardest event?

I think the hardest event was home run derby, 'cause I haven't picked up a bat in years. It felt strange and I just couldn't get in a rhythm like the other guys. Especially Jake Delhomme.

Who surprised you with their athletic ability?

I would have to say Jake. He was able to hold his own, and it showed in the home run derby.

Did Chad Johnson give you any tips for celebrating touchdowns?

Naw, he has his thing and I have my own. I throw up "the Roc" sign every time I score.

You're a big fan of "Madden" football. Did they do you justice with your player ratings in this year's game? Everyone always complains about their ratings.

I have to say I'm very happy with my personal ratings. [Editor's note: Johnson's overall rating of 96 is 10 points higher than his rating in last year's game. No wonder he's so happy.]

Do you always play as yourself and the Chiefs?

I can't lie, I do! Really, because I've grown up playing Madden and for me to be a part of the game is unreal. So I use myself every time I turn on the game. I also try to rush for 3,000 yards every season I play.

Do you ever let your opponents play as the Chiefs?

Nope. Not in my house, I don't. Especially not my brother. He can't touch the Chiefs if we're playing each other. It's my house, my rules.

Say you're playing against someone who is using the Chiefs, and they score a touchdown with the virtual Larry Johnson. Does that take the sting out of giving up a TD? After all, you just scored.

As long as they're giving me my touches I have no problem -- but I promise you, they won't win the game. It's funny when my friends want to play me with the Chiefs, because when they're running or scoring it's like they're talking in third person, saying, "run, LJ!"

We've been talking through the new XBox Live camera. What do you think the reaction is going to be when people out there go to play some online poker and they see your face on the screen?

Oh man, this camera is insane. Whenever I used to log on to play against a random person they never believed it was me! But I surprised some people today while playing World Series of Poker: Tournament Edition during a "Game with Fame" session.

Last question: Jessica Alba, Beyonce or Jessica Simpson -- who would you rather play a game of video-enabled online poker with?

I would have to say Beyonce. I've gotten the chance to meet her a few times; she's a great person.

We can only imagine.

Patrick Hruby is a columnist for Page 2. Sound off to Page 2 here.