Early last week, the National Football Foundation announced the names of 10 players that will be officially inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame at the end of the year. Among these 10 football legends is one that Tech fans know and love: Calvin Johnson. Johnson played wide receiver for the Yellow Jackets from 2004 to 2006 under Coach Chan Gailey. Though Tech’s current triple option offense is primarily a running game, Johnson’s receiving skills were put to the test in Gailey’s pro-style offense.
As a true college freshman, Johnson immediately caught the attention of football fans nationwide by being named first-team all-ACC and ACC Rookie of the Year, and by scoring a Tech freshman record of eight touchdowns throughout the 2004 season. As his college career continued, so did his accomplishments.
By the end of his sophomore season, Johnson earned first-team All-American honors, first-team all-ACC honors for the second time and was a semifinalist for the Biletnikoff Award, an award given annually to the season’s most outstanding college football receiver. Johnson went on to win this award in 2006. In his last season at Tech, Johnson once again earned first-team all-ACC and All-American honors. He also became the second Yellow Jacket (along with quarterback Joe Hamilton) to be named the ACC Player of the Year, and finished No. 10 in the balloting for the Heisman Trophy. In a span of 38 college games, he finished with 2,927 yards receiving and 28 touchdowns.
At the beginning of 2007, Johnson declared that he would be entering the NFL Draft and would therefore forego his senior season at Georgia Tech. People had understandably high expectations for Johnson before the draft, but he nevertheless continued to impress scouts with his rare combination of height, weight, speed and coordination during the NFL combine. Not surprisingly, Johnson was the second pick in the first round of the 2007 NFL Draft and was drafted by the Detroit Lions, with whom he would spend nine more record-breaking years.
According to Sportsnet Stats, Johnson currently holds the NFL record for most consecutive games with 10 or more catches, most consecutive 100-yard receiving games and several more. In addition, he reached 10,000 receiving yards in a short span of just 115 games, which is quicker than anyone else in NFL history.
Calvin Johnson announced that he would be retiring from the game of football in 2016 and was inducted into the Georgia Tech Sports Hall of Fame shortly thereafter. At the end of his career, Fox Sports reported that over the course of his nine years with the Lions, Johnson played in 135 games and started in 130 of them. Throughout those 130 games, he accumulated a grand total of 11,619 total yards which included 555 first downs, 83 touchdowns and an impressive average of 86.1 yards per game, prodigious numbers even in a pass-first league that lends itself to inflated stats.
It is no question that Johnson is more than deserving of his induction into the College Football Hall of Fame, especially considering that he was selected for induction within his first year of eligibility. The more pressing question is whether his statistics will qualify him for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Of the 15 receivers enshrined in Canton, only five had fewer career receiving yards. All retired by 1987. With even such stars as Terrell Owens still struggling to make the Hall (although his exclusion so far may be more a result of his standoffish relationship with the media than his production), Johnson will have to wait his turn in line to be granted entry, if he makes it all.
Whether or not Johnson dons a gold jacket one day, he is now enshrined in his hometown, not only as one of the greatest Tech football players of all time but as one of the most impressive athletes in college football history.