Illustration / The Tennessean
By Jim Wyatt / The Tennessean
When Chris Johnson's marketing agency approached him this offseason about racing against a cheetah, he liked the idea.
"I didn't think it was crazy," the Titans running back said Friday. "I thought it was something fun to do, just to test human vs. animal."
Before he showed up for the race at Busch Gardens in Tampa, Fla., however, he had a reason to pause.
"The crazy thing is when they first set it up and they did a test run before we got there, the cheetah actually jumped over the barrier," Johnson said. "So they had to make it higher."
Johnson is entering his sixth NFL season, and only Adrian Peterson has more rushing yards than Johnson since 2008. On Friday, however, most of the questions from reporters focused on him and Bears return man Devin Hester racing against a cheetah for a special to kick off "Big Cat Week" on Nat Geo Wild in November.
The "race" took place a few months ago, Johnson said, and a barrier separated the athletes from the animal. The cheetah was encouraged to run "the way they do it at a dog race," he said.
There was even some pre-race gamesmanship: "It stared me down and walked back and forth."
So how did Johnson fare in the 60-meter race against an animal that can run as fast as 75 mph?
"You have to wait and see," he said with a smile.
Some teammates have questioned him about the race as well.
"They don't believe me," said Johnson, who ran the 40-yard dash in 4.24 seconds at the 2008 NFL Combine. "I tell them like I tell everybody - they have to wait until November to see it on TV."
Said wide receiver Kenny Britt: "If my man said he raced a cheetah, he raced a cheetah, you feel me? If he said he beat the cheetah, he beat the cheetah, you feel me? Point blank. Period. Am I ready to race a cheetah? No way."