Johnston happily blocks limelight, too


LOS ANGELES -- Daryl Johnston doesn't mind being just another face in the Dallas Cowboys crowd.

"I enjoy being able to just go around and not really be recognized. When you see guys like Emmitt [Smith] and Michael [Irvin] and Troy [Aikman] and what they have to go through from the personal side just walking around town, it's very difficult. It's a lot tougher than people realize," he said.

It's not a problem for Johnston because as the blocking back for the Cowboys, he rarely gets noticed.

That changed a week ago when CBS announcer John Madden lauded him for his role in the 30-20 victory over the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC title game. He scored a touchdown and caught four passes for 26 yards.

That prompted Aikman to needle Johnston by saying, "He's gone from the most underrated player in the league to the most overrated."

Johnston said he hasn't seen the tape of the game, but he heard that Madden complimented him. He said that Aikman put in a good word for him with Madden.

Johnston is something of a throwback to the days of the two-back offenses before the one-back and the run-and-shoot became popular, and he's a valuable cog in the offense because he paves the way for Smith's runs.

It doesn't bother Johnston that Smith gets all the limelight while he does the work in the trenches. Johnston carried the ball just 17 times the past two regular seasons.

"It doesn't bother me at all," he said. "Everybody asks me if it's a problem for your ego. But I've never considered myself somebody who's had an ego. It's easy for me. I know what my role is. When you've got a guy like Emmitt Smith on our team, you want to get him the ball as much as you possibly can."

A second-round pick in 1989 out of Syracuse, where he gained 1,830 yards, Johnston grew up in Youngstown, N.Y., about an hour's drive from Buffalo's Rich Stadium.

But Johnston was never a Bills fan. He grew up rooting for the Miami Dolphins.

"I'm probably accused of jumping on a winning team's bandwagon at a young age when they were one of the top teams in the NFL," he said.

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