June 19, 2003

Calvin Johnson: The quiet warrior

TYRONE, Ga. - Sitting in a metal folding chair in the coach's office at Sandy Creek High School, Calvin Johnson shifts uncomfortably from side to side while questions from reporters are being asked. He looks down at his feet and answers the questions softly. The inquiry continues, but the 6-foot-4, 200-pound four-star receiver answers in short clips and phrases.

"Good luck getting him to talk about himself," Sandy Creek coach Randy Walker. "He's the most humble kid that I've ever met. Everybody who's come through here has told me they think he's one of the top five receivers in the nation. He's big time.

"But he doesn't know how big time he is. That's what makes him such a special kid. He'd rather be out there catching balls, lifting weights or running instead of doing interviews."

Johnson nods in agreement.

"This is all new to me," Johnson said. "But I guess I better get used to it."

Yes Calvin, you better get used to it.

Johnson is ranked as the nation's No. 34 player and a four-star prospect that has scholarship offers from many of the nation's top programs like Georgia, Georgia Tech, Auburn, Florida, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Maryland and South Carolina.

When coach Walker turns on the video footage of Johnson on the screen, it's easy to see why those teams are after him. Johnson twists, turns and contorts his body to make highlight reel catches time after time.

Then glimpses of him blocking on running plays come onto the screen, and Johnson can been seen taking out defensive backs and linebackers with his solid stalk-blocking technique.

The reporters pause and let out a holler on the final block where he takes out a linebacker with a blind-side block. Johnson smiles sheepishly.

"That wasn't bad, was it?" he asked.

Johnson said he gets his humble and quiet side from his father.

"He's kind of quiet like me," Johnson said. "He always taught me that you let your actions do your talking and that if you're a good person and work hard, you'll be a good person."

And maybe that's the best way to describe Johnson first and foremost. Johnson isn't just a good person; he's great in everything he does.

In football, he caught 34 passes for 780 yards and 10 touchdowns as a junior. On the baseball diamond he plays centerfield and is a candidate to get drafted by in the major league amateur draft next spring. And he already knows what he wants out of life when he's ready to hang up the football and baseball cleats.

"I want to major in engineering," Johnson said. "I've always wanted to build things, so that's something that I want to pursue in college and when football and baseball are over. Maybe I'll do something in computers or design, but I definitely want to major in engineering. That's where I can see myself in 10 years from now."

Can he see himself at a certain school getting that engineering degree?

Johnson said he's already got a favorite school in the back of his mind and might be "pretty sure" where he's going to end up, but he's not spilling the beans and is only talking highly about four schools.

"My top four teams are Georgia, Georgia Tech, Oklahoma and Notre Dame," Johnson said. "They all have their advantages.

"With Georgia, I can play for a big-time program that wins a lot of games and plays in the SEC, plus it's close to home. Georgia Tech is a very good program that's close to home and you can get a great education there. I really like the passing schemes at Oklahoma and I could fit in their offense really well.

"And I've always been a big Notre Dame fan. That's the team that I watched while growing up and it would be kind of neat to play for them."

But that's the most that you'll get Johnson to talk about his future and where he's going to end up. Johnson picks at his fingers while sitting in the chair. The interview is finally over and he lets out a big sigh of relief.



 

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