PDA

View Full Version : Texans' Andre Johnson talented, but often overlooked


CloakNNNdagger
08-12-2011, 09:34 AM
The gentle giant is finally beginning to be recognized nationally. Good for him.


By Jon Saraceno, USA TODAY
Updated 6h 39m ago

HOUSTON Andre Johnson awoke in Dallas on Super Bowl Sunday after spending a festive weekend with friends in February. By kickoff, he was nearly 250 miles away, not a party bowl of guacamole within reach, lollygagging alone at home in his annual playoff funk.

Voted by peers as pro football's consummate pass catcher, not even Johnson's phenomenal exploits have been able to steer the Houston Texans to the playoffs. After slumping to a 6-10 record in 2010, Houston remains the only NFL franchise not to have advanced to the postseason since beginning play in 2002.

"This is what eats at me every day," says the soft-spoken wide receiver in a baritone voice. "I knew when I was drafted (in 2003) I was coming to an (expansion) organization. I knew it would not happen overnight. But I did not think it would take this long. I think about it every day. When I say every day, I mean every single day."

That makes eight interminably long years for one of the NFL's most highly accomplished yet underappreciated and understated assets. Johnson is no diva, tweeter or brand builder, just "hands-down the best receiver in the league," says cornerback Melvin Bullitt of the rival Indianapolis Colts.

The highest-paid receiver in history "has done everything for the (Texans) franchise; no one knows his name," says Baltimore Ravens fullback Vonta Leach, a former teammate.
USA TODAY Sports on Twitter!

To get the latest sports news from USA TODAY, including game results, columns and features, follow us on Twitter at @USATODAYSports.

Defenses do. Johnson, 30, is a fearless playmaker with freakish athletic ability, including a high tolerance for pain. Johnson is not the least bit queasy regarding the real possibility of violent, rush-hour-like collisions in the secondary. As he reasons, "You are going to get hit anyway. So you might as well catch it."
**************
Piling up the yards

Since quarterback Matt Schaub joined the Texans four years ago, Andre Johnson has averaged a league-best 96.5 yards a game, more than 14 yards higher than the next-best average. Most receiving yards a game from 2007 to 2010:

Player, team

Gm

Yds

Yds/Gm

A.Johnson, Hou.
54

5,211

96.5

R.Wayne, Ind.
64

5,274

82.4

L.Fitzgerald, Ariz.
63

5,069

80.5

R.White, Atl.
64

5,126

80.1

B.Marshall, Den./Mia.
60

4,724

78.7

**************


Johnson played with a high-ankle sprain most of last season and was voted to his fifth Pro Bowl and fourth all-pro honor. Injured in Week 2, he finished with 86 catches for 1,216 yards and eight touchdowns despite missing three games including the last two when doctors advised him to shut it down.

"Putting up those numbers, on one foot, tells (you) what he is all about; he is a phenomenal player," Texans coach Gary Kubiak says.

Texans quarterback Matt Schaub says there were many occasions when Johnson's ankle "was tweaked, and he would get a (pain-numbing) shot and go back out. Andre is a tough guy who sells out for his team."

The reason: His determination to be the greatest. Ever.

Maybe that's one reason, as a prep player at Miami Senior High, his first tattoo was of a lion with a football in his mouth underscored by "Hungry."

Johnson is the anti-Chad Ochocinco, doing nothing to draw attention to himself, aside from piling up record-setting numbers.

"(Hall of Fame receiver) Jerry Rice has set a plateau that probably never, ever will be duplicated," Johnson says. "But when I walk away from this game, I want people to say that Andre Johnson was the best receiver to ever have played."

Big numbers, low profile

Only Rice and Johnson have led the league in receiving yards in back-to-back seasons since 1960. This summer, NFL players voted the big Texan the league's seventh-best player overall.

Respected? Unquestionably. Chad Ochocinco-like, over-the-top personality? Sorry, wrong dude.

In 2010, sales for Johnson's No. 80 jersey ranked 44th among NFL players and, incredibly, No. 8 among receivers. The Texans' playoff drought is one reason. So is Johnson's indifference to personal outlandishness and a lack of self-promotion. He'd rather attend a high school football game or spend time with daughter, Kylie, 2.

"I don't think the guy even has a touchdown dance," marvels Hall of Fame receiver James Lofton of CBS Radio.

He sometimes spikes the ball, but mostly hugs his teammates and beelines for the sideline. Not that he is anti-flamboyant.

"Sometimes," he says, "I look forward to going home and watching ESPN to see what someone does (outrageously), so I can laugh. But it isn't me."

It was his shocking slugfest with Tennessee Titans cornerback Cortland Finnegan in 2010 that earned him unwanted notoriety. The players were kicked out of the game and each fined $25,000. Johnson apologized.

"More people know him more for the Finnegan fight than the play of Andre Johnson," Leach says. "He doesn't say much. He just goes about his business, a true professional. He chooses to make noise with his play."

Johnson is a rare, defense-sapping combination of a powerful, 6-2, 228-pound receiver who, Bullitt says, "has the size of a (pass-rushing) defensive end, the speed of a cornerback and the hands of a wide receiver."

The Atlanta Falcons' Roddy White, the NFL's leader in catches in 2010, jokingly says Johnson is "so big, so strong and runs so fast, that it's kind of unfair."

Johnson's 79.7-yard per-game career average is best in NFL history among players with at least 100 games. The only player in league history with 60 or more catches in each of his first eight seasons, Johnson often confronts sticky double coverage and brutal hits. His toughness and explosiveness enable him to turn routine catches into wide swaths of real estate.

Texans receivers coach Larry Kirksey, who coached Rice and Terrell Owens in San Francisco, calls Johnson a mixture of them.

"He is smart, and he understands the game. And he plays the game the way it is meant to be played," by playing all-out.

A prime example came in Week 13 at the Philadelphia Eagles. Four days after the Finnegan fiasco, Johnson displayed the right kind of playoff fight for a desperate team. With Houston trailing before halftime, he reinjured his ankle, telling trainers, "I think I'm done for the season." Johnson got a painkilling injection at halftime.

"He came out (because he) knew we needed him; it was do-or-die for us," Schaub says.

With the Texans trailing 20-10, Johnson returned in the second half and finished the game with six catches for 149 yards. The Texans rallied to take a 24-20 lead but lost 34-24.

"Yeah, I hate to say it, but there are some guys who (play just for money)," Johnson says. "They really don't care if they win or they lose. They just want to collect a check. If I ever got to that point, I would retire."

Keeping his head high

While he appears years from that eventuality, the injury bug stung Johnson in training camp. Leaping for a pass, the ball deflected off his left hand and dislocated the index finger.

"When I looked at it, it was kind of ugly, so I popped it back into place," he said. "But when I took my glove off, the blood started running out," because the bone broke the skin. "If I were able to play on a bum ankle, there is no way a finger is going to keep me down."

A day after the injury, Johnson found humor in his plight. As he strolled down a hallway, his tender, heavily bandaged finger was caught up in a pair of sandals carried by third-year running back Chris Ogbonnaya.

"He started pulling me along, and I was like, 'Whoa, whoa!' " Johnson says. "He said, 'Sorry, man, my bad.' We just laughed."

Johnson has had too few days to smile about since the Texans drafted the ex-Miami (Fla.) star with the third overall pick. At Miami, Johnson was accustomed to playing after the regular season. He was a Rose Bowl MVP. But it would take until 2009 before Johnson played on another winner: the 9-7 Texans.

Last summer, the Texans rewarded Johnson with a two-year, $23.5 million contract extension, including a guaranteed $13 million that keeps him in Houston until 2016. But at what price to a very determined man?

"I hate watching the postseason," he says. "I think, 'Man, when is our time coming?' "

Thorn
08-12-2011, 10:01 AM
Fantastic read, thanks for posting.

eriadoc
08-12-2011, 10:08 AM
If I'm being truly honest with myself, I actually wonder if I'm more of a Texans fan or an AJ fan. And I don't want to know the answer.

HTown2ATX
08-12-2011, 10:13 AM
Man, I usually don't read the whole article...but I read that one...

Man love for Dre!

Baller.

:fans:

houstonspartan
08-12-2011, 11:14 AM
If I'm being truly honest with myself, I actually wonder if I'm more of a Texans fan or an AJ fan. And I don't want to know the answer.

I know what you mean. I like AJ so much that a part of me wants him to go to another team so he can win a Super Bowl. Dude deserves it that much.

drs23
08-12-2011, 11:15 AM
There have been very few like AJ. Not a phony bone in the man's body. I'm trying to think of who could be mentioned in the same breath. Earl was dynamic and reserved like Andre. Closest I can think of. There are others I'm sure, but I can't think of who.

DX-TEX
08-12-2011, 11:25 AM
There have been very few like AJ. Not a phony bone in the man's body. I'm trying to think of who could be mentioned in the same breath. Earl was dynamic and reserved like Andre. Closest I can think of. There are others I'm sure, but I can't think of who.

If not just football then you can add Olajuwan to the list. Houston has been blessed with some hign class guys. Hopefully AJ can retire here with a couple championships like Hakeem.

Double Barrel
08-12-2011, 11:26 AM
AJ is the Texans version of Earl.

I've often said that I don't want my boy idolizing entertainers. But since AJ is one of his heroes, I have absolutely no problem with it. My childhood hero was Earl, so it's full circle. I plan to get my son an AJ jersey this season (he also wants a Brady jersey, lol!).

Reading "annual playoff funk" makes me sad. This guy deserves the playoffs as much or more than this entire city deserves it.

With that in mind, I hope ALL Texans fans attending games read this article. And when it's time to open your lungs for our defense, HOLD NOTHING BACK!! I'm not sure how many games I can attend this year, but the ones I do attend, I plan on leaving the stadium without a voice. It is the least we can do for our home team, and it is what we HAVE to do for our part in helping AJ reach the Promise Land.

Reading this kind of story gets me FIRED UP! I haven't felt this way in a long time, maybe going back to the Capers years when the team was young and the fanbase was energized with having football back in H-town.

This is the year, Texans fans!! BRING IT!!! :texflag: :fans: :texflag: FOR AJ!!!

b0ng
08-12-2011, 11:29 AM
How is Andre Johnson overlooked, when he's been considered one of the top 2 WR's for the last like 3 years or so?

Double Barrel
08-12-2011, 11:36 AM
How is Andre Johnson overlooked, when he's been considered one of the top 2 WR's for the last like 3 years or so?

Maybe it's about fan perception?

In 2010, sales for Johnson's No. 80 jersey ranked 44th among NFL players and, incredibly, No. 8 among receivers.

Honoring Earl 34
08-12-2011, 11:37 AM
If AJ had Schaub from the beginning , he'd be a no doubt HOF player .

Honoring Earl 34
08-12-2011, 11:38 AM
How is Andre Johnson overlooked, when he's been considered one of the top 2 WR's for the last like 3 years or so?

Yep ... but he may be a top five all time great after it's all said and done .

Double Barrel
08-12-2011, 11:42 AM
Yep ... but he may be a top five all time great after it's all said and done .

No. 2 GOAT after Rice, IMO.

Vinnie
08-12-2011, 11:43 AM
If I'm being truly honest with myself, I actually wonder if I'm more of a Texans fan or an AJ fan. And I don't want to know the answer.

I think the answer to this is pretty easy. Ask yourself what you would do if he was traded or lost in free agency. Would you stop following the Texans and pick up his new team or would you keep following the Texans? For me it's a no brainer. I'd follow the Texans as closely as I do now and look for Andre's highlights on Sports Center.

HTown2ATX
08-12-2011, 11:50 AM
If AJ had Schaub from the beginning , he'd be a no doubt HOF player .


Personally I think AJ is already in the HOF on 1st ballot as of now.

Just IMO

badboy
08-12-2011, 12:09 PM
Enjoyed the read as I do everythng about AJ. What a credit to sports and to human race.

Honoring Earl 34
08-12-2011, 12:09 PM
No. 2 GOAT after Rice, IMO.

Alright I'm coming in taking a break from mowing ... whats goat ?

michaelm
08-12-2011, 12:11 PM
Alright I'm coming in taking a break from mowing ... whats goat ?


Greatest of All Time.

GuerillaBlack
08-12-2011, 12:33 PM
The Texans NEED to make the postseason. AJ is 30 now. The GOAT needs a ring!

drs23
08-12-2011, 12:35 PM
If not just football then you can add Olajuwan to the list. Houston has been blessed with some hign class guys. Hopefully AJ can retire here with a couple championships like Hakeem.

Sure, good point. I was thinking football but you're absolulely correct about the Dream. I'd think Nolan would be in the mix to represent so Astos action.

b0ng
08-12-2011, 12:41 PM
Maybe it's about fan perception?

People em masse are pretty stupid, but sports writers (even as dumb as they can be) tend to all agree on how good Johnson is, and they are the ones who will ultimately decide if he is hall of fame worthy or not.

I just find it hard to call Johnson overlooked in 2011, when pretty much any casual NFL fan basically identifies the whole team as "That one Andre Johnson plays for."

SteveSlaton20
08-12-2011, 12:50 PM
good article, but he's been respected for the last 2-3 years now. and i don't think anyone has compare andre to ocho, personality wise.

Honoring Earl 34
08-12-2011, 12:52 PM
People em masse are pretty stupid, but sports writers (even as dumb as they can be) tend to all agree on how good Johnson is, and they are the ones who will ultimately decide if he is hall of fame worthy or not.

I just find it hard to call Johnson overlooked in 2011, when pretty much any casual NFL fan basically identifies the whole team as "That one Andre Johnson plays for."

The way he works and his similar build to TO , I'd say he has about five more years at a high level . Hopefully the team catches up with him .

Texas T
08-12-2011, 12:56 PM
Sure, good point. I was thinking football but you're absolulely correct about the Dream. I'd think Nolan would be in the mix to represent so Astos action.

I was thinking the same thing. It dawned on me, I'm sure I already knew this but forgot, that 34 must be a magical number in Houston:

Earl Campbell-Houston Oilers-#34
Nolan Ryan-Houston Astros-#34
Hakeem the Dream-Houston Rockets-#34

Too bad AJ can't wear it!!!

Crushing56
08-12-2011, 01:14 PM
I really hope the fact that we never made the playoffs (that is IF Andre never reaches the playoffs) could stop Andre from going into the Hall of Fame. Just look at his numbers and his clutch play. He's done his part.

TimeKiller
08-12-2011, 01:48 PM
I honestly believe that if it came down to gametime....and there were no LBs left to trot out on the field, they could look to AJ and he would go in and play LB. And probably end the game with 3 sacks, a pick, 14 tackles and a Defensive player of the week award.

TheCD
08-12-2011, 01:50 PM
I really hope the fact that we never made the playoffs (that is IF Andre never reaches the playoffs) could stop Andre from going into the Hall of Fame. Just look at his numbers and his clutch play. He's done his part.

I think Andre solidified a spot in the HOF when he tied Rice for consecutive 1,500+ yard seasons.

Ryan
08-12-2011, 02:07 PM
Great article. Only thing keeping AJ from a guaranteed spot in Canton is some postseason appearances and hopefully a ring or two.