Former Panthers make impact in NFL



Former UNI Panther David Johnson on Arizona Cardinals team.

COLIN HORNING, Sports Editor

Former University of Northern Iowa running back David Johnson and linebacker L.J. Fort both were listed as starters for their respective NFL teams during week one of the 2020 NFL season. Johnson, after coming over from the Arizona Cardinals in a trade during the offseason, started at running back for the Houston Texans on the NFL’s season-opening Thursday night game. Fort, a journeyman for the majority of his NFL career, was listed as the starter for the Baltimore Ravens during their week one opener against the Cleveland Browns.

On March, 20, 2020, Johnson was acquired by the Houston Texans in a blockbuster trade with the Arizona Cardinals. He was projected to be the starting running back for the Texans all season and earned the start for the season-opener against the Kansas City Chiefs. Johnson scored the first touchdown of the 2020 season in the first quarter of the game, breaking off a 19-yard touchdown run to put the Texans up 7-0. However, Kansas City ended up winning the game 34-20. Johnson recorded 11 carries for 77 yards and one touchdown, along with three catches for 32 yards. The Texans will face the Baltimore Ravens in week two.

Fort will be making a more low-profile appearance for his team. The former undrafted signee will be suiting up for his eighth career NFL team in nine seasons, this time earning the week one start for the Baltimore Ravens at middle linebacker. Last season (his first season in Baltimore) saw him gain more stability as a member of the defense, as he provided the Ravens with a solid defensive effort and earned a two-year extension. The journeyman will help provide his team with a veteran presence and will bolster one of the best defenses in the entire NFL.

Two more Panthers will be on their respective teams practice squads. After winning a Super Bowl with the Kansas City Chiefs last season, defensive tackle Xavier Williams signed a one-year deal with the New England Patriots and will start the 2020 season on their practice squad, after being cut on the final day of roster cuts.

Wide receiver Daurice Fountain was also released on the final day of roster cuts by the Indianapolis Colts, but was brought back as a member of the practice squad. Due to new COVID-19 policies put in place by the NFL, practice squads were allowed to be expanded from 12 players to 16, in order to provide teams with more roster space and flexibility in the event of an outbreak on a team. These new rules could potentially provide more opportunities for former Panthers.