March, 20 2023
A man who stands 6' 5" and weighs 239 lbs. should not be able to run a 4.35 40-yard dash. Calvin Johnson did just that at the 2007 NFL Scouting Combine. NFL defensive backs were about to learn what his ACC rivals knew well: trying to contain Johnson would be a very difficult assignment, not just because of his size but also his toughness.
Johnson averaged an eye-popping 15.8 yards every time he touched the ball at Georgia Tech. He was consistently double and triple-teamed to no avail because he could simply outmuscle defenders for the ball. A touchdown reception in a 31-23 victory over NC State in 2006 illustrated this. QB Reggie Ball threw a high pass towards Johnson at the goal line. Although double-covered, Johnson caught the pass at its highest point while both Wolfpack defenders crashed into him. Johnson simply allowed the defenders to bounce off him and fell into the end zone.
Drafted by the Detroit Lions, Johnson found defenders bigger and stronger, but his physicality never wavered. He injured his hand early in the 2013 season. Detroit GM Martin Mayhew told reporters the injury would have sidelined most NFL players. “He played the entire season with a finger pointing perpendicular from his body,” Mayhew marveled. “He’s trying to catch the ball awkwardly. He would never complain.” In fact, Johnson had an excellent season by most standards, catching 84 passes for 1.492 yards. When Johnson was asked about playing through such an injury, he said that was the job: “It’s relentless, never stop until the coach makes you. Always working hard out there and never stopping.” Johnson’s size and toughness earned him the nickname “Megatron.”
Gifted with size and speed unusual for a receiver, Johnson had a stellar collegiate and professional career because he refused to let defenders or injury stop him.