A decade before the Tennessee Titans drafted current back-to-back rushing champion Derrick Henry, 45th overall in the 2016 NFL Draft; they selected a 6’1″ 235 lbs running back 45th overall out of USC, LenDale White. White’s former USC teammate Reggie Bush went No. 1 overall to the New Orleans Saints in the same draft class.
In 2008, the Titans selected running back Chris Johnson, 24th overall out of East Carolina, on the heels of his 4.25 40-yard dash time at the NFL Combine. White only carried the ball 61 times for 244 yards in his rookie season of 2006 due to Travis Henry‘s 1,200 yards season in front of him. Year two saw him rush for 1,110 yards and seven touchdowns.
When the Titans selected Johnson, the duo was instantly dubbed “Smash and Dash.” White was a bruising back that ran at tacklers, while Johnson, nicknamed “CJ2K,” relied on his speed and one- cut-and-gone ability. Johnson’s rookie season saw the combination run for a combined 2,001 yards, with Johnson having 1,228 and 24 touchdowns, with White accounting for 15. They were definitely living up to their name.
When Both Had a Good Day
The duo’s pinnacle was a regular-season game in 2008 against the Kansas City Chiefs. Each runner surpassed 100 yards on the ground in that game and took it to the house from a long distance. As a team, the Titans rushed for a franchise-record of 332 yards in that game.
White had an impressive afternoon, rushing for 149 yards on 17 carries while scoring three touchdowns. None more impressive than when he outran the Chiefs’ defense on his 80-yard scamper. After several near misses, Johnson was finally able to break a long one in the fourth quarter. His 66-yard TD run cemented a strong performance that consisted of 168 yards on 18 carries.
Chris Johnson & LenDale White were fun to watch. pic.twitter.com/yNTPK0amkV— CHANNEL TITANS (@CHANNEL_TITANS) May 17, 2019
Let’s remember LenDale White @titans RB (2006-2009)— letsremember_someguys (@remember_guys) January 12, 2020
🏈 5️⃣8️⃣ games
🏈 6️⃣2️⃣8️⃣ rushes
🏈 2️⃣3️⃣4️⃣9️⃣ yards
🏈 2️⃣4️⃣ TD
🏈 1️⃣x All-American at @USC (2005)
🏈 5️⃣2️⃣ rushing TD at @USC (school record)#TENvsBAL #TitanUp #NFL pic.twitter.com/XQ9tzy6g2g
They also had another great game on Thanksgiving Day 2008. Both Johnson and White carved up the Detroit Lions for a combined 231 yards rushing and four touchdowns en route to a 47-10 victory.
Sharing the backfield with Bush in college helped White put his ego aside. Thus, he shared carries with the elusive Johnson without batting an eye and just made the most of his opportunities.
The 2009 season was White’s last in the NFL. The Titans limited his carries and yards due to CJ2K becoming just the sixth running back in NFL history to rush for over 2,000 yards in a season.
This is what 4.2 looks like…I’ll believe them kids 40 times when it look like this pic.twitter.com/IliKyJD9Y1— Charles James II (@CJDeuce_) April 1, 2021
Johnson called Nashville home for the first six of his 10 NFL seasons. All six he rushed for over 1,000 yards and was also a three-time Pro Bowl selection. He went on to play one season with the New York Jets and three seasons with the Arizona Cardinals but never had the success he had with the Titans. Once he lost his elusive first step, he was never the same. Off-the-field issues, including getting shot in his hometown of Orlando, Florida, had as much to do with his career being cut short as much as his on-the-field play.
For a franchise that has seen many running backs, from Earl Campbell to Eddie George to Henry and all those in between, Smash and Dash for that short time was the most effective one-two punch to play for them. Johnson belongs in the conversation with the other three among the best to ever play for the Titans/Oilers. Both remain good friends and are tied to this franchise even today.
.@ChrisJohnson28 shared an epic story on one of the times LenDale White was late to a Titans meeting 💩— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) January 4, 2019
Watch the full interview (via @SimmsAndLefkoe): https://t.co/WKWjeAmtyx pic.twitter.com/PAt6E2emXk
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