Calvin Johnson Jr.
- Born: September 29, 1985 (Age 38)
- Drafted: 2007 Round 1, Pick 2 by Detroit
- Years in NFL: 9 (2007-2015)
- Career Stats: 731 receptions, 11,619 yards, 83 TDs
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Calvin Johnson burst onto the NFL scene in 2007 as the 2nd overall draft pick of the Detroit Lions. His imposing 6‘5" frame and athletic prowess quickly earned him the nickname "Megatron" – a reference to the powerful Transformers character. Over the course of a stellar 9-year career, Johnson lived up to that moniker by establishing himself as one of the most dominant wide receivers to ever play the game.
Early Life and College Career
Calvin Johnson Jr. grew up in Newnan, Georgia where he first made a name for himself as a three-sport star at Sandy Creek High School. After catching 39 passes for over 1,000 yards and 15 touchdowns as a senior, Johnson became one of the nation‘s top recruits.
Johnson chose to attend nearby Georgia Tech where he continued to dominate on the football field. From 2004-2006, Johnson rewrote the Yellow Jackets‘ receiving record books with 178 catches for 2,927 yards and 28 touchdowns. His physical gifts were on full display, as the 6‘5" wideout showcased a stunning blend of size, speed and leaping ability. Johnson won the Biletnikoff Award as the nation‘s best receiver in 2006 and left school early to enter the NFL Draft after his redshirt junior season.
Road to the Draft
Johnson solidified his status as a blue-chip NFL prospect after his jaw-dropping performance at the 2007 Scouting Combine. He posted a blazing 4.35 40-yard dash, 42.5" vertical jump, and 11‘7" broad jump – elite numbers for a 239-pound receiver. When draft day arrived, the Detroit Lions selected Johnson with the 2nd overall pick to be the go-to weapon for young quarterback Matthew Stafford.
Soaring to Stardom
Johnson immediately showed why the Lions regarded him as a cornerstone player. He turned in an excellent rookie season with 48 catches for 756 yards and 4 scores to make the All-Rookie Team. The following season, he earned his first of six career Pro Bowl nods after racking up 78 receptions, 1,331 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Johnson‘s production exploded to new heights over the next five seasons. He led the NFL with 1,964 receiving yards in 2011 and again with 1,964 yards in 2012 – a new single season league record. During his legendary 2012 effort, Johnson also hauled in 122 passes and scored 5 times on his way to All-Pro honors.
From 2010-2013, Johnson averaged a staggering 96 receptions, 1,564 yards and 11 touchdowns per season. No defender could handle his rare blend of size, speed, and leaping ability. Double and triple coverages did little to slow him down. With his trademark red shoes and transformational play, Johnson had officially lived up to his "Megatron" moniker.
Leaving a Legendary Lions Legacy
While Johnson‘s production tailed off slightly in his final two seasons due to injuries, he continued performing at an elite level. In 2015, he posted 88 catches for 1,214 yards and 9 touchdowns – excellent numbers for most receivers. But for Megatron, they represented his lowest totals since his rookie campaign.
In just 9 brilliant seasons, Johnson became the Lions‘ franchise leader with 731 receptions, 11,619 receiving yards, and 83 receiving touchdowns. His 86.1 yards per game ranks 1st all-time in NFL history. Just as importantly, Johnson endeared himself to Detroit fans with his quiet leadership and high character.
The only blemish on Johnson‘s resume was his lack of playoff success. He reached the postseason just twice, posting a 1-2 record. After getting his first career playoff win in 2014, Johnson came up excruciatingly short in a 24-20 loss at Dallas when a penalty flag was picked up on a late fourth down pass interference call. Regardless, Johnson‘s sustained excellence earned 6 Pro Bowls and 3 All-Pro nods.
Life After Football
Prior to the 2016 season, Johnson delivered a bombshell by announcing his retirement at just 30 years old. Always a calm, quiet figure, Johnson exuded grace even as he left the game on his own terms.
"I still enjoy playing football, but after 12 years, I have decided to retire," Johnson explained at his retirement press conference. "I have played the game since I was a child. I will miss many things about the NFL, but most of all, I will miss the relationships with my teammates."
In retirement, Johnson continues to be beloved throughout Detroit for the thrills he provided Lions fans. For me, it was an absolute privilege to watch Megatron‘s incredible career unfold right from his first NFL snap. He demonstrated how the game is supposed to be played, and gave us countless unforgettable moments that will live on in football history.