First, the Detroit Lions legend has the body of a Greek god.
Second, he lorded over the opposition at every snap.
But even if he retired at age 30, those who tried to cover him will have nightmarish stories forever.
Freak Of Nature
The 6-foot-5 Johnson declared for the 2007 NFL Draft after three seasons at Georgia Tech.
Sporting websites like ESPN had him as the most talented prospect among all aspirants.
However, he became a household name after a dominant performance during the NFL Combine.
Despite weighing 239 pounds that time, Johnson ran the 40-yard dash in 4.35 seconds.
His broad jump of 11 feet, seven inches awed all the scouts in attendance.
Calvin Johnson: only player 6-foot-5 or taller to run a 40-yard dash in under 4.40 sec at the combine since 2006 pic.twitter.com/qSBmYD60Jn
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 8, 2016
No wonder the Lions did not hesitate in drafting him as the second overall selection.
But until he played an NFL game, there were doubts if he could translate his talent onto the field.
After all, there are several physically gifted players who fizzled in the pros.
Yet all doubts were laid to rest as “Megatron” wreaked havoc against opposing secondaries.
An Inconvenient Matchup
To borrow a Sound of Music line, how do you solve a problem like Johnson?
Line him up in single coverage against a smaller cornerback and a big gain often followed.
Matthew Stafford could just throw to his vicinity and Johnson found a way to make a reception.
Putting two defenders on him was no solution either.
He could simply use his huge strides to leave them behind or jump above them to complete the catch.
On the day he goes into the Hall of Fame, a reminder of just how different Calvin Johnson was. pic.twitter.com/dqdVwi17d4
— Field Yates (@FieldYates) August 8, 2021
Having a linebacker cover him was no use because of his speed advantage.
Johnson simply ran his route to perfection and gained more yards after the reception.
These are the dilemmas NFL teams faced whenever they went up against the Lions during the Johnson years.
They had huge sigh of relief when the play was not for him because it’s like Detroit was taking the field with a cheat code.
But his place in Canton is no aberration, as proven by his statistics and records.
Johnson holds the record for most receiving yards in a single season with 1,964, a feat that he accomplished in 2012.
He also shares the record with Michael Irvin for most 100-yard games in a season at 11.
On October 27, 2013, he set the single-game record for most receiving yards in regulation with 329 against the Dallas Cowboys.
These records will be difficult to topple, making his achievements more exceptional.
“Lions fans and the city of Detroit, when we were 0-16, you never stopped showing up,” Calvin Johnson said.
“You were disappointed but you never stopped showing up. Every week you showed up and this is what motivated me to do the same for you.”
— Brad Galli (@BradGalli) August 9, 2021
But though he already has a gold jacket, the what-ifs regarding his tenure still circulate.
If he played more, he could set more records.
If he stayed longer, perhaps the Lions would finally win a playoff game.
Yet for nine seasons, he was undeniably the best in his craft.
His legacy on the gridiron makes him immortal.