Calvin Johnson retired from the NFL today after nine seasons with the Detroit Lions. He was arguably the greatest receiver of his era, amassing 11,619 yards, 721 receptions and 83 touchdowns. He was unstoppable at times, often requiring double and triple teams. He was fun to watch, he was well-respected by peers, and he was beloved by fans. He also unintentionally gave us perhaps the greatest football Vine ever after Green Bay defeated Detroit on a Hail Mary in 2015.
All that being said, Johnson was a part of some awful, awful Lions teams over the last decade. The 2008 squad in particular went 0-16. The 2011 and 2014 Lions went to the playoffs only to lose in heartbreaking fashion to the Saints and Cowboys respectively. The frustration and the physical toll the game took on his body was simply too much. Rumors began circulating shortly after the season about a possible retirement. Nobody wanted to believe it, least of all the Detroit Lions.
But alas, the Lions can’t have (nor deserve) nice things.
Calvin provided a statement to the media. For those who know Calvin, a press conference for his retirement was never a consideration.
“Let me begin by apologizing for making this announcement via a statement and not in person. While I truly respect the significance of this, those who know me best will understand and not be surprised that I choose not to have a press conference for this announcement.
“And finally, to the fans of Detroit and Michigan. I so appreciated your passionate support over the years and truly enjoyed playing for you. I loved playing in Detroit and will forever be a Lion. My biggest regret is that I wasn’t able to help give our fans a championship. But I do believe the future of the Lions is bright and with the leadership from people like Rod Wood and Bob Quinn, who I have gotten to know over the past few months, I am confident that our fans will soon be rewarded with the championship you deserve.
“From the bottom of my heart I thank you all for everything.”
Several people who played with and against Calvin weighed in on Twitter.
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When I signed with the Detroit Lions I met a young man by the name of Calvin Johnson Jr…a humble superstar who spoke with his actions not his words. After watching him during our first practice together I knew I was going to be witness to something very special. In the 4 years I was there I saw him evolve from really good to great to unstoppable. I can only describe it like a Super Hero realizing his Super Powers one day at a time until he realized he was there to save the city. CJ is a man of few words but I knew by how much he loved Detroit and by his work ethic I realized he embraced the responsibility of bringing pride to Michigan which HE DID time & time again. It was a pleasure to watch, honor to play with and joy to kick it wit you bro. You gave the game everything you had in every game you played and out worked every dollar you made. You are one of few shinning examples of how I will not only teach my kids to approach sports but how to approach life. I Never told you in person but this is how I saw you when we played together… ☆You stood like a Giant amongst Boys, toiled like a Peasant amongst Kings and Blessed us with your presence like a God amongst Men☆ You may be Megatron to the masses but you just CJ to me. Enjoy retirement homie! Love, Nate B #LionBloodForever
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There are not many memories of Matthew playing professional football that don't have you in them.. You have been such an inspiration to so many, including my husband and more than that, an amazing friend and mentor in this game. You know you will be missed as a teammate.. Being the best receiver to play this game, we don't have to tell you that, but you'll be missed so much more as a friend. Can't wait wait for you to start this new chapter.. With the first line being about retiring and the second line about becoming a husband! We love you Calvin.. And lucky for us, you will be living down the road for the time to come. #thetrueGOAT
And the NFL media:
Finally, on a more personal note, Calvin’s catch against the Bengals remains one of the greatest individual plays I’ve ever seen.