ALLEN PARK, MI - There was a time when elite NFL receivers were viewed as selfish players, who were more interested in their stat line than a team victory.
There was also a time when NFL receivers were viewed as complementary pieces to an offense but far from the most valuable component.
The Lions' receiver, nicknamed "Megatron," meets all the criteria for superstardom while remaining low-key, humble and team-oriented. Johnson’s personality is so discreet that his spectacular ability only began to be nationally noticed in 2010 – his fourth season.
Now, after scoring eight touchdowns in four games, the entire league has taken notice of the talents that Johnson’s teammates have been well aware of.
“He deserves recognition,” said receiver Nate Burleson
. “He’s quiet, quiet as a church mouse. “He’s loud on game day but he doesn’t talk and he doesn’t gloat too much or boast about the type of talent that he is. I told him when I got here; ‘I’ll do that for you. I got this, I’ll tell everybody how great you are.’”
Although Burleson’s words tend to resonate, actions always speak louder than words and Johnson’s play has been blaringly strident.
Calvin Johnson currently leads the league with 48 points -- or eight touchdowns. The next closest receiver is Denver's Eric Decker with 30 points (four touchdowns).
Chuck Kluckhohn, USPresswire
The 26-year old has recorded two touchdown receptions in each game this season, while catching 24 passes for 321 yards.
Beyond his stats, his speed and strength make him almost impossible to cover, while his leaping ability enables him to defy double-team coverage. Opposing defenses either pay additional attention to him or they simply pay.
Johnson creates opportunities for himself or his teammates, either way, the entire team benefits. That’s why he is the league’s most valuable player.
It’s not just those in the stands and in the press box that think so. Those occupying a locker in the dressing room can also name the team’s MVP.
“Calvin, of course,” said Sammie Lee Hill
. “He’s unreal, everything he does is unreal. You can’t pick anybody else.”
Hill isn’t alone in his assessment.
“Calvin Johnson. Unstoppable,” said cornerback Chris Houston
. “When we get in the red zone I don’t even have to look at the screen, I can look away and I know it’s going to be a touchdown. I just love to have him on our side.”
It’s a testament to Johnson’s contributions that he is recognized throughout the locker room of a 4-0 team, which has had many contributors, as a nearly unanimous MVP.
I say nearly because there is at least one person who wouldn’t cast a ballot with Johnson’s name on it – himself.
When asked if he was the league’s MVP, he didn’t even crack a smile.
“It’s too early in the season,” said Johnson. “We’re four games in, we’re not even in the middle of our schedule. There is a lot of football left to play. That’s not to say we’re not playing good ball right now but there are still a lot of things that we have got to improve.”
That’s Johnson, always operating with a team-first mentality. It’s never about the catch he made or the points he scored. Rather, it’s about the team.
Even with increased media attention and magazine covers, Johnson will not get lost in the hype.
He’s constantly working with the coaching staff to improve every aspect of his game.
“It starts with my coach, (receivers coach) Shawn (Jefferson),” said Johnson. “He preaches that stuff. Non-talent issues, blocking, all the stuff after the play.
We can catch the ball, that’s what we’re here for, but making a block downfield to spring a running back, those are the big things in the end that help us.”
Johnson, who turned 26 about a week ago, is still getting better.
“That’s the goal every year, to improve on my craft from the year before,” said Johnson. ‘That’s always the goal and we’re still working towards that. The season is not over and there is a lot of work to be done.”
Johnson isn’t only one of the best at his position, but he is one of the best in the game.
There has been nobody more valuable to their team during the first four weeks of the season.
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There was a time when elite NFL receivers were viewed as selfish players, who were more interested in their stat line than a team victory. If those beliefs are the rule, Detroit receiver Calvin Johnson is the exception.
Detroit's receiver is gaining recognition but not the ego en route to super-stardom.