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Lions Legend Calvin Johnson elected to Hall of Fame

Megatron is taking his rightful place with the legends of pro football.

Calvin Johnson, dubbed "Megatron" as a rookie with the Detroit Lions because of his otherworldly physique and athleticism, has been voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Voting was conducted virtually on Jan. 19, and the results were announced today in Tampa, Fla., the day before Super Bowl LV.

Johnson becomes the 17th player to make the Hall of Fame who is considered to have played all of his career with the Lions, or a significant portion of it.

There was never any question about whether Johnson had the ability or impact on the game to warrant induction into the Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

The only issue that put his candidacy in doubt was the length of his career. Johnson played only nine seasons, which did not allow him to compile the gaudy stats required for most receivers to make it to Canton.

The fact that Johnson was voted in on the first ballot was a clear signal that the voters chose quality over quantity.

Lions Hall of Famer Barry Sanders, the greatest runner in pro football history, praised Johnson.

"I am a little biased, but I don't know how you could keep him out," Sanders said earlier in the week. "Look at the numbers he put up and how dominant he was as a player.

"I know sometimes it's difficult for receivers because I feel like they change the standards for receivers almost every year."

Johnson set a standard of his own for how a wide receiver could dominate a game, and few -- if any -- have matched it.

Johnson had size (6-5, 239 pounds), speed (4.39 seconds in the 40-yard dash), leaping ability (42.5 inches in the vertical jump) and relentless competitiveness to put all those traits together on the playing field.

He got the nickname "Megatron" as a rookie in training camp with the Detroit Lions in 2007.

Roy Williams, a budding Pro Bowl wide receiver for the Lions, took one look at the physically imposing rookie and put the "Megatron" tag on Johnson.

The name likened Johnson to the character in the Transformers series.

The nickname stuck, and Johnson lived up to it every minute of his nine-year career with the Lions.

From his rookie season in 2007 through his final game in 2015, Megatron was special, and not just on the football field.

He was a quiet superstar, one who drew attention to himself with his play. He was revered by teammates for his all-out competitiveness on the field and his lack of ego away from it.

"One of the best athletes I've ever seen in my life," said former Lions teammate Dan Orlovsky, now a top NFL analyst for ESPN. "One of the most motivated I've ever seen.

"One of the best souls I've ever been around."

Johnson opened his career in style and ended it the same.

In his first game, Johnson caught four passes for 70 yards and one touchdown on a 16-yard catch in a 36-21 road win over the Oakland Raiders on opening day of 2007.

He closed out his career in the final regular-season game of 2015 with a performance that was worthy of a curtain call.

He had 10 catches for 137 yards and one TD. His final catch was a six-yard gain on third and five that clinched a 24-20 road win over the Bears.

There were signs late in the year that the 2015 season would be his last, but Johnson avoided talking specifically about his future in his weekly interviews, either midweek or after games.

He ended all doubt by announcing his retirement in March of 2016, in time for the Lions to go ahead with plans to sign free agents.

In between his first and last games, Johnson wove together a career that was an unending highlight stream of acrobatic catches -- diving for balls, or leaping high above one, two, three or more defenders to make a circus catch.

Whatever it took, he went after the ball -- and came down with it more often that not.

As a three-year player at Georgia Tech, he gave a preview of what was to come with 178 career catches, 28 TDs and an average of 16.4 yards per catch.

He had another quality that NFL executives covet -- high character.

His head coach at Georgia Tech, Chan Gailey, once referred to the future pro star as being "as close to can't miss" as any pro prospect he'd every seen. Gailey had a long career that included stops as an assistant and head coach in both college and the NFL.

Johnson was a prospect without a blemish, and the Lions had the good fortune of being able to draft him with the second pick in the first round.

Johnson had a solid rookie season, with 49 catches for 756 yards and four TDs. It was a good start, with greatness on the immediate horizon.

He blossomed in 2008, despite playing on a Lions team that went 0-16. He had 78 catches for 1,331 yards and a league-leading 12 TDs.

The yards and catches would roll in after that.

In 2012 he led the NFL in catches with 122 and set the NFL record for receiving yards in a season with 1,964 -- a record that still stands.

For his career, he had seven seasons with at least 1,000 receiving yards, including the last six in a row.

He was first team All Pro three times, made six Pro Bowls and was voted to the All Decade team of 2010-19 by the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Despite his obvious greatness, playing only nine seasons did not allow him to produce the high career statistics that many Hall of Fame voters use as a measuring stick.

Johnson is 22nd in career TD catches with 83, 32nd with 11,619 career receiving yards and 47th with 731 career receptions.

Like other hurdles in his career, Johnson got over that one to reach the Hall of Fame.

Rick Gosselin, a long-time Hall of Fame columnist and Hall of Fame voter who is widely respected for his diligence in voting, did not see a short career blocking Johnson's path to Canton.

"With some Hall of Fame candidates, you need statistics to back up his case," Gosselin wrote in an e-mail. "Not so with Calvin Johnson. He passed the eye test.

"He was a great player coming out of Georgia Tech -- the best player of the 2007 draft -- and a great player with the Lions.

"Arguably the best receiver in the NFL in his four-year window from 2010-13."

And now a Hall of Famer.

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