Calvin Johnson Biography

Athlete, Football Player (1985–)
A massive wide receiver with explosive speed and game-breaking abilities, Calvin Johnson has developed into one of the NFL's most dominant players.


Born on September 29, 1985, in Newnan, Georgia, to academic-minded parents, Calvin Johnson developed the superior size and athletic skills that set him on the path to pro football. Selected with the No. 2 pick in the 2007 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions, he eventually became one of the game’s most dominant wide receivers.

Early Life

Calvin Johnson Jr. was born on September 29, 1985, in Newnan, Georgia. One of four children, he grew up in a household where academic excellence was stressed by his parents, Calvin Sr., a freight-train conductor, and Arica Johnson, a project manager with the Atlanta public-school system.

Johnson displayed an early affinity for baseball, eventually becoming good enough to draw attention from major-league scouts. However, he also developed into a big, speedy wide receiver at Sandy Creek High School in Tyrone, Georgia, and his parents were adamant that he take advantage of the athletic scholarships being offered by some of the top college football programs in the country.

Johnson enrolled at the Georgia Institute of Technology, due in part to the school's renowned engineering program.

A Man Among Boys

With his size and game-breaking abilities, Calvin Johnson drew a disproportionate share of attention from opposing defenses in college. His numbers were relatively modest in his first two seasons, but as a junior he erupted for 1,202 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns, both school records. He was named the 2006 Biletnikoff Award winner as college football’s top receiver and finished 10th in voting for the prestigious Heisman Trophy.

Johnson wowed the talent evaluators at the 2007 NFL Scouting Combine. Measured at 6'5" and 239 pounds, a massive size for a wide receiver, he ran the 40-yard dash in a blazing 4.35 seconds. He was selected with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions.

The Mightiest Lion

Johnson offered glimpses of his immense talent in his rookie season, catching 48 passes for 756 yards and four touchdowns. Quiet and hardworking, he was a breath of fresh air for fans who had grown disgusted with the antics of star NFL wideouts Terrell Owens and Randy Moss. Ironically, he was nicknamed "Megatron," after the powerful but evil robot leader from the Transformers cartoon and toy line.

Johnson blossomed in his second season, catching 78 passes for 1,331 yards and an NFL-best 12 touchdowns. Despite his efforts, it was a dismal season for the Lions, who became the first team in NFL history to finish with a 0-16 record.

Johnson's numbers were down in 2009, and the Lions barely improved, to 2-14. However, the team was soon bolstered with the addition of key players, including strong-armed quarterback Matt Stafford, and Johnson's continued development into perhaps the top receiving threat in football. In 2010, he caught 77 passes for 1,120 yards and 12 touchdowns, earning his first Pro Bowl selection.

In 2011, Johnson set career highs with 16 touchdowns and an NFL-best 1,681 yards, helping the Lions to a 10-6 record and their first playoff appearance since 1999. He was virtually unstoppable in his playoff debut, catching 12 passes for an amazing 211 yards and two touchdowns, but the Lions lost to the New Orleans Saints, 45-28.

Coming off his second straight Pro Bowl selection, Johnson signed an eight-year deal worth up to $132 million in the 2012 off-season, making him the highest-paid receiver in the NFL. That summer, he was featured on the cover of the popular Madden 2013 video game.

The Lions fell back to the pack in a disappointing 2012 season, but Johnson nonetheless lived up heightened expectations. He topped the NFL with 122 catches and an incredible 1,964 receiving yards, which broke the single-season record set by Hall of Famer Jerry Rice in 1995.

Johnson accumulated 329 receiving yards vs. the Dallas Cowboys in October 2013, the most ever for a non-overtime game, but he also missed two games that season with a knee injury. The physical demands of the sport presented more obstacles for the star receiver in 2014, as he sat out three games with a sprained ankle.

Daring to try something beyond his football career, Johnson decided to join Season 23's cast of Dancing With the Stars in 2016. 

Fact Check

We strive for accuracy and fairness. If you see something that doesn't look right, contact us!