In this edition of 100 Days, 100 Detroit Lions, we honor a Lions’ great who in just nine seasons, has staked his claim as the greatest wide receiver in National Football League history not named Jerry Rice.
8. Calvin Johnson
Wide Receiver. 2007-2016 Detroit
They call him Megatron. . . . In just nine seasons, Calvin Johnson not only had one of the best nicknames in recent sports’ history, but was often called the greatest pass catcher who ever stepped onto an NFL gridiron this side of Jerry Rice.
The 6-foot-5, 236 pound Johnson was drafted by the Lions as the second-overall pick in the 2007 draft. He left Georgia Tech after his junior season as a three-time all ACC selection, a two-time All American, as well as the Fred Biletnikoff Award and Paul Warfield Trophy winner.
As a rookie, he started 10 games and caught 48 passes for 756 years and 4 touchdowns, while playing behind veteran Roy Williams on the depth chart. He came into his own in his second season, grabbing 78 balls, for 1,331 yards and 12 scores.
A rarely before seen combination of size, speed, and playmaking instincts, Johnson is revolutionizing the wide receiver position like Jerry Rice did 25 years ago. And just as Rice had elite quarterbacks Joe Montana and Steve Young for much of his career, Johnson benefits from being at the other end of Matthew Stafford’s arm in the Lions’ passing attack.
In 2011, Stafford and Johnson rewrote the Lions’ record book. Johnson broke Cloyce Box’s 59 year-old record for touchdown passes in a season by grabbing 16. He also came just 5 yards shy of breaking Herman Moore’s 16 year-old yardage total, amassing 1,681 yards in 16 games. One year later, Johnson amassed 122 catches for an incredible, NFL record-setting, 1,964 yards receiving (122.75 yards per-game), breaking Jerry Rice’s NFL record for receiving yardage in a single-season (1,848) set in 1995.
The last few seasons had been injury plagued for Johnson, but he still collected 243 catches, 3,783 yards and 29 touchdowns during that span. His career totals stand at 731 catches, 11,619 yards and 83 touchdowns. Like Barry Sanders before him, he retired without a championship. But also like Barry, he will surely have a golden bust in Canton, Ohio with his name on it someday.