Back in 2004, one of the nation's top wide receiver prospects (from nearby Sandy Creek HS in Tyrone, GA) decided to continue his football career at Georgia Tech. In doing so, he began down a path that would lead him to being not only (arguably) the best player in Georgia Tech history, but one of the best wide receivers to ever play the game.
In three years at Georgia Tech, he was first-team All-ACC each year, and a first-team All-America selection twice. He dazzled us from the beginning with consistently incredible play, with an iconic game-winning catch and one of the most iconic catches in college football history as a true freshman in 2004. Through his entire career, Johnson managed to make catch after catch, consistently leaving us with our jaws on the floor. He finished his three-year college career as Georgia Tech's all-time leader in receiving yards and receiving touchdowns, and second all-time in receptions.
He left scouts' jaws on the floor at the NFL Combine, where he tested through the roof. After weighing in at nearly 240 pounds, Johnson ran a 4.35-second 40-yard dash, displayed a broad jump of over 11.5 feet, managed a 42.5 inch vertical leap, and managed a 41 on the Wonderlic to top it all off. He was the #2 overall pick by the Detroit Lions in the 2007 NFL Draft, after receiving extraordinarily high remarks from scouts leading up to the Draft.
In the first game of his career, he started off on the right foot, with 4 catches for 70 yards and a touchdown. Throughout the rest of his career (133 games), he had 717 more catches for another 11,549 yards and 82 touchdowns. Johnson had seven 1,000-yard seasons, set an NFL record in 2012 with 1,964 receiving yards, and set numerous other NFL records along the way. Despite a relatively short NFL career, Johnson is arguably one of the best wide receivers to ever play the game, and almost a surefire future member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
On top of all of his on-field efforts, Johnson was the epitome of class and professionalism off the field. Before his final season on the Flats, he spent the summer in Bolivia building solar latrines to improve sanitation, saying he "wanted to help the less fortunate". His official charity, the Calvin Johnson Jr. Foundation, has awarded scholarships, fed the hungry, and raised money for Breast Cancer research, along with several other outreach and community service efforts.
As for the future, Johnson announced a couple of months back his intent to return to Georgia Tech and finish his degree once his playing days were over, citing the importance instilled upon him by his parents when he was growing up. Johnson was a Building Construction major, and only has about 30 hours left of credits to complete his degree (although the program is no longer offered as an undergraduate degree program).
Nearly 12 years ago, Georgia Tech saw one of the future all-time greats walk on to its campus, surrounded by hype and questions as to whether he'd live up to his "legendary billing" (as Wes Durham referred to it back in 2004). We saw him live up to it -- and more. From the moment that Johnson set foot on Georgia Tech's campus, he's done nothing but constantly make the Yellow Jacket family proud. He's been an icon, a living legend, "Megatron", known across the country as one of the game's best, both on and off the field.
Calvin Johnson officially retired from football today, and began the next chapter of his life in doing so. He may well start that next chapter by returning to an earlier one and completing the degree he worked so hard at so many years ago. Whether he pursues that degree or another opportunity, Johnson will always be one of the very favorites to ever grace the Flats, and he'll surely be successful in his endeavors.
Thanks for the memories, Calvin. You've made all of us so, so proud, and we can never thank you enough for your representation of the Institute, both on and off the field. We can't wait to see what the next chapter of your life has in store for you.