He was a man both talented and trying, a back so capable of changing both the game on Sunday and your opinion of him by Monday. As a coach, he was maddening to handle - a Chad Ochocinco level of combustion. Yet on game days, that same coach breathed a sign of relief with Johnson's ability to place the Chiefs on his back and run the football.
Nearly 6,000 yards later, Johnson's legacy is over. And it's a tarnished one, for sure. The issues were many in the LJ years and made many within the fan base cringe with each statement to the press, each interview, each Tweet. From Dick Vermeil to Herm Edwards to Todd Haley, each coach had to deal with the baggage that came with one of the franchise's greatest running back ever. And up until now, it's always been worth it. It's a shame it had to go down this way.
Then again, the warning signs were always there - both with the talent and frustration levels. He became the first running back in history to post three consecutive 150-yard games to start his career. He also publicly pouted and complained given his status of sitting behind Priest Holmes, leading to the famous "diapers off" comment from then-coach Vermeil. Here was a back running for 2,000 yards his last year at Penn State and yet Vermeil made it clear he didn't even want to draft LJ in the first place. The situation, in other words, was birthed as a tenuous one.
If anything, Johnson was that challenging child for the Chiefs. He was socially awkward, didn't play by the normal rules and required special attention and needs. Yet he was incredibly gifted, a natural on the field with a rare combination of strength and vision and sheer determination to go where few backs have gone. He was a football prodigy who needed extra care - and the team that took him had to be aware of that.
How LJ will be remembered is a perplexing situation. With final memories like the ones he most recently made, with Twitter references making stabs at gays and the working-class fan, it likely won't be sunny anytime soon. It's not like a Brett Favre situation where he was heavily booed earlier this year, yet we all know the cheers and heartwarming greetings will await him in Green Bay when he's finally done in the NFL. For LJ, some are even already protesting his place in the Ring of Honor, even though those same fans enjoyed the success he brought on-field for the last several years.
Perhaps time will heal these wounds. And perhaps LJ will gain some perspective (or at least some PR advice) and say the right things once the tensions have settled. For now, LJ was a gift and a curse - to quote the philosopher Jay-Z - and that's something that Chiefs fans have always had to deal with.