Note: Calvin Johnson vs Green Bay // Calvin Johnson vs Green Bay // Calvin Johnson midair pass cropped
- Georgia Tech - Receiving yards for a career – 2,927
College awards and honors
- First-team Freshman All-American 2004
- All-American 2005 and 2006
- First-Team All-Atlantic Coast Conference, 2004, 2005 and 2006
- ACC Rookie of the Year, 2004
- ACC Player of the Year, 2006
- Four-time ACC Rookie of the Week
- Biletnikoff Award, 2006
- Paul Warfield Trophy, 2006
- 10th place in 2006 Heisman Vote – 43 total votes (76 rec, 1,202 yds, 15.8 avg, 15 TD)
During the summer of 2006, Johnson, who majored in management with a background in building construction, was given the option of working on either constructing environmentally friendly luxury condos, or a project building solar latrines to improve sanitation in Bolivia. Johnson chose the latter, as he wanted to help the less fortunate. The "solar latrines" use the sun’s rays to safely transform bacteria-laden waste into fertilizer.
Johnson was SI.com's Midseason 2007 NFL Draft Projection #1 pick, though Johnson had stated that he intended to earn his degree from Georgia Tech. On January 8, 2007, Johnson declared himself eligible for the NFL Draft, bypassing his senior season at Georgia Tech. He was regarded as the best athlete to come out of the draft and was the #1 player on most draft boards. Johnson was said by ESPN to be able to be productive as a rookie, much like receiver Randy Moss was as a rookie. In a mid-February workout with speed and conditioning coach Mark Pearsall, Johnson clocked a 4.33-second 40-yard dash, recorded an 11-foot standing broad jump, and had a vertical leap of 43 inches.
Johnson surprised many when he weighed in at 239 pounds at the combine, 12 pounds more than expected, although he claims that this season he played "at about 235 and I got up to 238" and that his weight was not a problem. Johnson had told the media that he would not run the 40-yard dash at the combine but would wait until his March 15 workout at Georgia Tech. Johnson ran a 4.35 and wowed scouts with his jump drill results, his receiving skills, and his 11 ft 7 in (3.53 m) broad jump, which is "best broad jump I can ever remember an NFL prospect having," according to Gil Brandt. Johnson is the only player 6-foot-5 or taller, regardless of position, to run a 40-yard dash in under 4.40 seconds at the combine since 2006.
Johnson was selected by the Detroit Lions in the first round as the second pick overall in the 2007 NFL Draft. This is the highest a Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket has ever been drafted. The Lions were expected to trade Johnson, most likely to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but the team announced that they were keeping him. The next day, the Detroit Tigers invited him to throw out the ceremonial first pitch.
|Ht||Wt||40‑yd dash||10-yd split||20-yd split||20‑ss||3‑cone||Vert jump||Broad||Wonderlic|
|6 ft 5 in||239 lb||4.35 s||1.52 s||2.53 s||42.5 in||11 ft 7 in||41|
|All from NFL Combine, except vertical and broad jump (which are from Georgia Tech pro day).|
Johnson attended Reebok's NFL Rookie Premiere in Los Angeles. The Lions, being told by the league that Johnson would have to skip the minicamp to attend, rescheduled the camp to accommodate Johnson. On August 3, 2007, Johnson signed a six-year deal with the Detroit Lions after holding out for eight days, and passed his physical in time to be on the field for the start of that morning's practice. He was represented by agent James "Bus" Cook. The contract was worth up to US$64 million, with $ in guaranteed money, making Johnson the highest-paid player in Lions history (since passed by quarterback Matthew Stafford and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh) and the highest-paid receiver (in guaranteed money) in the NFL.
Although he did not start the game, Johnson had an impressive NFL debut on Sunday, September 9, 2007, catching four passes for 70 yards and his first career touchdown in Detroit's 36–21 win over the Oakland Raiders. He sustained a lower back injury after making a catch over two Philadelphia Eagles defenders on September 23, 2007. He scored his first NFL rushing touchdown against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on October 21, 2007 on a 32-yard reverse play. Fellow teammate and wide receiver Roy Williams nicknamed Johnson "Megatron", due to his large hands being similar to that of the towering Decepticon. The nickname caught on well with fans. Williams later changed the nickname to "Bolt" after Jamaican sprinting phenom Usain Bolt, comparing the two athletes' similar height and running abilities. Johnson finished the 2007 season with 756 yards and 5 total touchdowns.
In 2008, Johnson said he could "still feel" the lower-back injury that bothered him throughout his rookie season. Johnson took five weeks off after the 2007 season and was taking part in the Lions' offseason program. "I know it's there but it doesn't hurt," he said. Johnson revealed that he needed Vicodin to play through the final three months of the 2007 season. He needed the medication to help him play with a bone bruise in his back. "I was on meds the rest of the season," he said. "I was taking Vicodin twice a game just to get through the game. I stayed hurt the whole season, probably because I was trying to come back too soon." Johnson averaged 15.8 yards on 48 catches in the 2007 season.
Johnson and the Lions faced the Atlanta Falcons on the road on September 7, 2008, in the season opener at the Georgia Dome. As the official starting wide receiver behind Roy Williams, Johnson led the team in receptions and yards, collecting 7 catches for 107 yards, which included one 38-yard catch-and-run in the Lions' 34–21 loss. During Week 2 versus the Green Bay Packers, he had two key touchdowns late in the game, which sparked a large comeback, though the Lions eventually lost the game, 48–25. Both touchdowns catches included a run after the catch (the first catch going for 38 yards and the second going for 47 yards, both over the middle) displaying Johnson's speed and breakaway ability. He ended the game with 6 receptions for 129 yards and 2 touchdowns. In the following two games, losses to San Francisco and Chicago, Johnson failed to score a touchdown or gain over 50 yards receiving. However, against the Minnesota Vikings, Johnson had 4 receptions for 85 yards and his third touchdown of the season.
On October 14 before the Week 6 trade deadline, Roy Williams was traded to the Dallas Cowboys for a first, a 3rd and a 7th-round pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, making Johnson the Lions' starting wide receiver and the last big threat on the offense. In his first game without Roy Williams alongside him in the week 7 game against the Houston Texans, Johnson caught only two passes, totaling 154 yards receiving; the first pass did not come until quarterback Dan Orlovsky threw a pass up for grabs at the end of the first half which Johnson caught for 58 yards and the second pass came on a 96-yard touchdown catch-and-run. With Williams gone and starting quarterback Jon Kitna lost to injury for the season, the Texans defense had little to do to stop the Lions' offense but shut down Johnson, winning the game 28–21.
Johnson set a career high for receptions in a game during the Week-9 match-up against their division rivals, the Chicago Bears, with 8 receptions that garnered 94 yards and one touchdown, although still losing the game 27–23. During Week 10, formerly retired All-Pro quarterback Daunte Culpepper was signed to a one-year contract with the Lions in hopes to spur the offense and earned the starting job for the next two games. Johnson ended his first game with Culpepper at quarterback with 2 receptions for 92 yards in a 38–14 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. In Johnson's 4th game with Culpepper, he had 5 catches for 66 yards. During the Week 14 match-up against the division rival Minnesota Vikings, Johnson passed the 1,000-yard receiving mark for the first time in his career after collecting 3 catches for 84 yards and one touchdown, ending the week with 1,055 yards receiving and 9 touchdowns on the season.
Johnson and the 2008 Detroit Lions finished the first ever 0–16 season in NFL history after a 31–21 loss to the Green Bay Packers in week 17. Despite the Lions' failures and the fact that five different quarterbacks played during the year, Johnson finished as one of the strongest wide receivers statistically for the 2008 season, finishing fifth in receiving yards (1,331) and 7th in receiving yards per game (83.2), and leading the league in receiving touchdowns (12), despite the fact that the entire Lions team only passed for 18 touchdowns. However, Johnson missed the Pro Bowl, with most experts attributing the snub to the Lions' dismal winless season (he was named an alternate instead).
After 2008, Detroit's front office and coaching personnel were essentially overhauled by the team ownership. Matt Millen, the team's incumbent general manager and CEO since 2001, was terminated on September 28, 2008. His replacement, Martin Mayhew, ultimately terminated head coach Rod Marinelli in the off-season. Marinelli was replaced by Jim Schwartz, then defensive coordinator of the Tennessee Titans. Schwartz ultimately revamped the entire Detroit offensive (and defensive) philosophies—hiring Scott Linehan and Gunther Cunningham, respectively. Detroit held the first pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, and selected quarterback Matthew Stafford out of the University of Georgia. Stafford was named the team's starting quarterback out of training camp, but he battled various injuries throughout the season. Much of the 2008 Detroit roster was released by the new regime, and the 2009 team was viewed as somewhat of a work-in-progress, but Johnson still finished the 2009 season with 67 receptions, 984 yards, and five touchdowns, while missing two games.