Johnson’s performance with the Lions last season was another step in elevating his standing in the ranks of sports celebrities. He is more than a local star, with a growing following that has expanded beyond loyal Lions fans.
“Megatron” – a nickname bestowed on Johnson by former Lions teammate Roy Williams – is as synonymous with Johnson as it is with the character who had the name in the movie franchise “Transformers.”
Johnson is a pass-catching machine who destroys defenses. He was voted to the cover of the “Madden NFL 13” video game, beating out Panthers quarterback Cam Newton in the final one-on-one vote.
Johnson doesn’t seek the spotlight, but he has become accustomed to the attention he gets. Face it – when you’re a 6-foot-5 receiver who runs like a sprinter and makes the sports-network highlight reels every week, you’ll get noticed.
In this last offseason, Johnson learned that he has to deal with being recognized nationally – and internationally.
“It’s cool,” he said after a training-camp practice. “I liked it when I was low key. I could go wherever I wanted to go without anyone bothering me or anything like that.
“I like to go about my business and do what I like to do.”
He was noticed in one place where he least expected to be.
“I was in Mexico,” Johnson said, laughing. “I got noticed in Mexico, and they aren’t even American. That’s the crazy thing.”
What did they call him?
“Megatron,” Johnson replied.
So much for a language barrier.
Besides, some words and expressions – especially movie titles and their characters – stand alone in any language.
At that, Megatron sounds better than “Maquina Grande” – big machine in my interpretation of an English-Spanish online dictionary. It also beats “Manos de Piedra” – hands of stone, the nickname of former boxing champ Roberto Duran, and one that applied to members of the Lions’ receiving corps of past regimes.
The Lions have an exceptional set of pass-catchers – receivers and tight ends -- and Johnson sets the standard in many ways. In every practice and every play of every game, he’s an example for others to follow.
Johnson is coming off one of the best seasons by a Lions receiver in franchise history – 96 catches for a league-high 1,681 yards and 16 TDs.
When training camp opened Friday afternoon, Johnson and
On one of the first plays of the team drill, Johnson and Stafford gave an instant replay of what became common last year.
Johnson blazed past a defensive back down the left sideline, and Stafford hit him in stride with a pass that was lofted perfectly. The play went for a 60-yard touchdown.
“As you can see, we don’t waste any time getting back into the groove,” Johnson said.
Stafford was asked if it felt like the offense picked up where it left off in last season’s playoff loss at New Orleans. Johnson had 12 catches for 211 yards and two TDs in the game.
“Yeah,” Stafford said. “It felt good that we had a good start.”
Johnson’s impact on games is obvious. But he also has an influence on teammates, such as
Wide receivers are the divas of the NFL, both in personality and their antics on the field. Johnson is one of the anti-divas, along with other receivers such as Larry Fitzgerald of the Cardinals and Wes Walker of the Patriots.
They make a statement with their performance, not celebrations or flamboyant behavior and comments.
Johnson sets an example for Young, whose stall is near Johnson’s in the Lions’ locker room.
“I see a high standard,” Young said. “When I look at him every single day, he’s not going to let me take a day off. Sometimes I lean forward o him and say, ‘You’re a little tired Calvin.’ He never admits it.
“One thing I learned from him is to not really admit to yourself that you’re tired, living in the past basically.
“I see him getting ready for practicing, getting his mind right. I do the same things he does and then some.”