Back in 2007, when the Lions spent their fourth top ten draft pick in six years on a wide receiver, I was apprehensive to say the least. I figured it was just another bone headed move by our then general manager, Matt Millen. I couldn’t have been more wrong. It quickly became apparent that Calvin Johnson was the real deal, and he quickly became the best player on our team.
In fact, for many years he was our entire team. He was the only reason to watch. He was everything. Through the 0-16 season, and all the other seasons of awful football, Calvin Johnson was a God among men and made plays that no one else in the league could make. He was so good that he was nicknamed Megatron, after the monstrous leader of the Decepticons. But he wasn’t a monster, in fact he always seemed like one of the all around best guys in sports. He never complained about the state of the franchise, even though no one would blame him, or threatened to hold out for more money. He just showed up everyday, worked hard and made big plays.
For his efforts, he was rewarded with one of the richest contracts ever in sports at the time a few years ago, one that would have him count for $24 million against the Lions’ salary cap. He deserved every bit of that money, but everyone knew that number would have to be reworked somehow this offseason. Then, during the last few games of the 2015 season, it started to look as though Calvin Johnson was contemplating retirement. He was saving game balls and having what seemed to be, moments on the field that were far too emotional for someone who was only saying goodbye to his team for a few months until OTAs and training camp.
We found out after the last game that he was in fact thinking of hanging up his cleats and walking away, and then this past Sunday reports from reputable sources began saying that Megatron has made his decision to retire. These reports are yet to be confirmed by Calvin Johnson himself or the Lions organization, and word is that the team is trying to convince him to stick it out for another year or two. Apparently, they want him to sign an extension or restructure in order to lower his cap number this season, which could complicate things, but either way it seems as though the clock is ticking on one of the greatest receivers ever to play the game. And that makes me very sad.
So, for no other reason than me being a selfish fan, I beg you Calvin Johnson, please don’t leave us yet. If you do, I will try my hardest to understand. I know you’re body has been feeling the toll of jumping 10 feet in the air and falling on your ass repeatedly for the last decade-plus, and it isn’t healing like it used to, but I think there is still so much you could do in the game. I’m afraid that once you’re gone, we will never see another one like you. You, similar to Barry Sanders, deserve better than what the Lions organization has built around you for most of your career. But unlike Barry, you’re being a stand up guy about the whole thing. You aren’t going to leave the team high and dry the night before training camp. As usual you are the consummate professional, and if you do decide to leave the game you are giving the team enough time to replace you on the roster.
The only problem is that a guy like you can’t be replaced. I don’t need to talk about the records and stats. You can look those up anywhere. But any highlight reel of your body of work will show how important of a piece you have been to the Lions. People say that you won’t be a first ballot hall of famer because of only playing 9 years, or because other guys that in the top 10 in a lot of receiving categories, like Isaac Bruce, aren’t yet in the hall yet. To that I say, bullshit.
There was never another receiver that took over the game in the way that you did. For three or four years you were the best football player on the planet, period. Never before had I seen opposing teams put two DBs on the line to jam a receiver. Double and triple coverage meant nothing. Toss it up to Megatron and he could come down with it. That’s special. That’s Hall of Fame special.
I know you’re body is hurting, but so is my heart, along with the hearts of Lions fans everywhere. We love you Calvin, and for our own selfish reasons we don’t want to see you go just yet. If you do, there’s no hard feelings. We have nothing but respect, admiration and gratitude for everything you’ve done for our team and for the game of football. Until you come out yourself and tell the world your decision, we will keep on hoping that you aren’t done just yet. And if it happens that you are done, then from the bottom of my heart, thanks for everything.