If you put Calvin Johnson in a line-up with four other unknown NFL players and a couple of MMA fighters, you do think the average fan would be able to pick him out?
Which is sad because he is a prolific athlete who excels at a highly visible and valued position in this country’s #1 spot.
He wasn’t a household name at Georgia Tech. College football fans knew he was good, but the entire country didn’t know how good he was when the Detroit Lions made him the #2 overall pick in the 2007 draft. He had all the tools. A 4.35 40, upper body strength, an insane vertical, great hands. Then he started putting up numbers and former teammate Roy Williams named him Megatron. As far as bad ass nicknames go, that was pretty bad ass. People couldn’t wait to get their hands on the Transformer-inspired gear. It was tough, retro and cool at the same time.
The casual fan definitely knew the name, nickname and number. But I’m willing to bet there were people who owned a #81 Lions jersey that couldn’t pick him out of a crowd. But that’s fair. It’s hard to recognize receivers when you don’t see them in full uniform. You could probably recognize the way he ran, jumped and caught balls, but half-naked in a 2012 Acura commercial…maybe not.
That’s the challenge. Detroit was going through a revival. Chrysler and Eminem were making it cool again. The Tigers were getting better. The Pistons weren’t. But Lions were. So how do you market a guy who earns a living wearing a helmet and is best known as a bad guy from a lovable 80’s cartoon. Where do you start? How about a new logo and clothing line?
Then, show him over and over with his helmet off. Get the average American Football fan to recognize him. Shoot, get his girlfriend to recognize him. Make him cool.
Nike Football’s “Calvin & Johnson” featuring Diddy as Megatron’s alter ego.
ESPN’s This is SportsCenter
Double teams and various coverages don’t seem to slow down Megatron the same way they did with Andre Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald. With the whole league knowing who’s getting the ball, Johnson broke the all-time single-season receiving record with 1,848 yards. All of a sudden that 2,000 mark doesn’t seem impossible. If anyone’s going to do it, it’s going to be Megatron. Jerry Rice couldn’t do it. Randy Moss couldn’t do it. Oddly, you could instantly recognize either of those two on the street.
There’s no telling where Calvin Johnson’s ceiling is and he’s putting on one hell of a show. So if you don’t live the greater Detroit area and only loosely follow CJ for fantasy purposes, you should start paying close attention. Watch his warm-ups. Watch how he runs his routes. Watch how he gets yards after the catch. Watch how he celebrates. You don’t have to buy his hats, but get to know what he looks like. You’re going to be seeing a lot more of him and you don’t want to miss a thing.