Calvin Johnson enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame

CANTON, Ohio — “Megatron” was the coolest nickname of its era and it fit Calvin Johnson’s immense football skills and transformative play perfectly.

The larger-than-life wide receiver, who played at 6-foot-5 and 237 pounds, is now forever enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in this city where the NFL started more than 100 years ago.

After being introduced by former Georgia Tech team chaplain Derrick Moore, Johnson stood before the football world with his family, of about 30 members deep, wildly cheering. The crowd of 17,021 roared as he approached the podium.

“I’m trying to keep my emotions in check, here,” Johnson said. “Y’all chill out.”

ExplorePhotos: Calvin Johnson enters Hall of Fame

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

The poised Johnson then went into his speech.

“It’s truly an honor to be standing before you this evening celebrating this incredible moment,” Johnson said.

With time limited in recent years for the speeches, Johnson opened with a blanket thank you.

“From College Park to Tyrone,” Johnson said. “From Atlanta to Detroit, I want you to know that I know who you are. I know what you’ve done. I know how you’ve impacted me and I want to say thank you to each and everyone of you. Thank you.”

ExploreFormer Georgia high school players in Pro Football Hall of Fame

Johnson joined Jim Brown and Gale Sayers as Pro Football Hall of Famers inducted at the age of 35 years old or younger.

“That’s football royalty,” Johnson said.

Johnson, who was drafted No. 2 overall out of Georgia Tech in 2007 by the Detroit Lions, received his gold jacket Friday.

“It’s just a honor,” Johnson said. “We were talking before about the guys that came before them. How I looked up to the guys before me. It’s just a culmination of all of these talents in one room. It’s just an honor to be here.”

After nine seasons with the Lions, Johnson — with his body banged up from injuries — retired.

He led the NFL in receiving yards per game (86.1), 100-yard games (46), 200-yards games (five), and games with multiple receiving touchdowns (17) during that time period.

Johnson, who retired early at the age of 30, holds league records for receiving yards (1,964 in 2012) and consecutive 100-yard receiving games (eight), which has since been tied by Minnesota’s Adam Thielen.

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

A six-time Pro Bowl selection, Johnson was named All-Pro first team three times and second team All-Pro once.

The Lions made it to the playoffs twice and only had two winning seasons during Johnson’s tenure. He made his debut in the playoffs with a spectacular 12-catch performance that produced 211 yards and two touchdowns in a 45-28 loss to the Saints on Jan. 7, 2012.

His 329 yards receiving in a regular-season game against Dallas on Oct. 27, 2013, ranked second behind Flipper Anderson of the Los Angeles Rams, who amassed 366 yards against the Saints on Nov. 26, 1989.

“When your drafting in the top three every year, the playoffs, it’s going to be hard to get there,” Johnson said of his playoff legacy. “It’s had to turn that first pick in the draft into a playoff winner. Usually, you’re on the wrong side of things when you are picking early and we were picking early quite a bit during the first half of my career.”

In his fifth season, the Lions went to the playoffs.

“The second half, we got to the playoffs,” Johnson said. “We were getting there and I felt like we had a team that could get all the way. I felt like even there toward the end of my career, a couple of years, two years before I left, that’s kind of when they broke up the band a little bit.”

Johnson liked the defensive line.

“When we got rid of three of those guys off of that defensive line and didn’t really replace them, at that point, I was like, ‘OK, we’re in rebuilding mode,’ ” Johnson said.

The Lions went to the playoffs after the 2014 season, but had a controversial loss to the Dallas Cowboys when an apparent pass interference was not called in the fourth quarter.

“We just couldn’t put it all together,” Johnson said. “I don’t spend too much time worrying about it, but when I think about the playoffs, I think back really to that first game we had against New Orleans. Then we had the robbery in Dallas.”

Johnson doesn’t think he would have played longer with another team.

“I know what my body was telling me,” Johnson said. “My days were numbered. If we had just won a championship, of course I’m going to come back. If we had gotten to the playoffs, maybe I would have come back.”

Asked if there was a quarterback presently in the NFL that he’d like to play with, Johnson compared his days at Georgia Tech with quarterback Reggie Ball to what it would be like to play with Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson.

“I love Reggie so much because he could put the ball pretty much anywhere on the field, but he used his legs a whole lot to get out of situations,” Johnson said. “It got to a point where Reggie would stop using his legs to run because he knew I was out there and he’d use his legs to free up a second and get the ball down the field.”

Johnson likes to watch Jackson play.

“When he breaks the pocket, (no one can) take him down behind the line of scrimmage and right before he crosses the line of scrimmage he dumps that ball down the field 50, 60 yards,” Johnson said. “Hey, I see that and I just think about Reggie Ball when we were in college.”

In few more years, Johnson expects former Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones to join him in Canton. Jones is currently averaging 95.5 yards per game over 135 games.

“It’s going to be hard to deny him,” Johnson said. “He helped lead his team to the playoffs and the Super Bowl. I loved watching Julio when he came out of college. If he can stay healthy, he has a good chance. I know he has numbers.”

When Johnson was done playing, he briefly entertained thoughts of a comeback.

“I can’t say that I didn’t think about it,” Johnson said. “Every time I thought about it, I would get a sharp pain in my knee or my ankle to remind me that I couldn’t do that anymore.”

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Johnson doesn’t plan to get into coaching.

“Coaches are there before and after we leave,” Johnson said. “I love football and I love pouring into the guys, but I’m not …I wouldn’t look forward to going to work every day, going into those meeting rooms. Nah, no way. Not happening for me.”

Johnson does have an interesting post-career plan.

Along with former Lions teammate Rob Sims, he has founded a cannabis business in Webberville, Mich., and is collaborating with Harvard University to research how marijuana can help people with CTE and chronic pain.

“It’s called Primitiv,” Johnson said. “Plant medicine is the original way. It’s the original medicine going back to our primitive roots. At the same time, taking all of the technology that we have today and applying it to the plant medicine that we use. There are better ways, more holistic, natural ways and increasing alternatives to a lot things that are being used today.”

Johnson is serious about this venture.

“I’m just looking forward to being leaders in this space,” Johnson said. “Removing the stigma from the space by educating people about the healing powers of the plant. Really, the big thing for us is pushing the education.”

That education started within the highly-respected Johnson family.

“To the point where I have my mom asking me for applications or topicals,” Johnson said. “My mom was totally against me. She is from the South, the Bible Belt. Cannabis is a big no-no especially in the Black community. So, she wasn’t happy about it.

“My biggest joy was to bring her to check out my facilities for the first time a couple of months ago. She was blown away. She saw that we are really passionate about what we are doing. Creating solutions in the space.”

CLASS OF 2021

  • Alan Faneca
  • Tom Flores
  • Calvin Johnson
  • John Lynch
  • Peyton Manning
  • Bill Nunn
  • Drew Pearson
  • Charles Woodson

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