Calvin Johnson was selected 2nd overall in the 2007 NFL draft by the Detroit Lions. Now, nine years later, the athletic freak of nature is calling it quits. Like former Lions running back Barry Sanders before him, Johnson is only 30 years old.
With the current controversy over CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) brain injuries caused by the game of football, it is no small wonder that he joins a growing trend of pro players who are choosing to walk away from the game while they still can, rather than having to be pushed away in a sad, slow roll in a wheelchair.
But I remember the way in which his stiff arm struck the helmets of hapless cornerbacks like a cobra swinging a sledgehammer. Those glory days have come to an end.
Johnson had a Pro Bowl caliber season in 2015 and chose not to attend this year’s festivities. With 1,214 yards and nine TDs this year, he accumulated a grand total of 11,619 yards and 83 TDs for his career.
As hard as it might be for Detroit fans to stomach this, there is a strong possibility that the human formerly known as Megatron simply had enough of being a part of an eternally dysfunctional franchise in Detroit. The Lions have only made the playoffs in two of the nine seasons that Johnson suited up in blue and silver. The result of both postseason appearances were early exits due to the inferior makeup of the rosters that he was a part of.
Though Johnson will certainly be listed in the Lions Ring of Honor alongside Barry Sanders and all-time winningest coach Wayne Fontes, there will be some fans who will have no appreciation of his efforts until the Detroit Lions lineup someone of far less ability. But not even franchise favorite Herman Moore comes close in receiving yards and touchdowns, with 9,174 yards and 62 touchdowns in his 11-year career.
For those that don’t know, the name Megatron is the villain from the Transformers toy and cartoon franchise. The character is the biggest, baddest and strongest of them all. And, at least for a little while, all of that was true of Calvin Johnson.
He recorded six seasons with more than 1,000 receiving yards. He showed up to play in each of his Wild Card playoff appearances in 2011 and 2014 with 12 catches for 211 yards against New Orleans in a 28-45 drubbing and eight grabs for 85 yards in 2014 versus the Dallas Cowboys in a heartbreaking 20-24 loss.
In the immortal words of Boyz II Men, “It’s so hard to say goodbye to yesterday.” Is he a Hall of Famer? Well, no receiver has more yardage or touchdowns than Johnson since he entered he league in 2007, but that may not be enough.