He was one of the greatest athletes to ever don a professional sports uniform in Houston and put up numbers that should send him to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
It’s only fitting that he gets to retire a Texan. Those short stints in Royal and Columbia blue fade quickly into memory and what endures is a phenomenal career in Deep Steel Blue that produced more eye-popping, unforgettable moments than any player in the history of the franchise.
I had the privilege of also calling his games at the University of Miami. He electrified college football in a three-year career that included a 199 receiving yard Rose Bowl MVP performance in the 2001 National Championship Game. Fifteen months later he would be drafted by the Texans and spend a dozen seasons dazzling crowds at NRG Stadium.
For a franchise that took six seasons to hit the .500 mark, he was the biggest attraction and probably would have been on just about any team for which he played. The great ones often make their work look effortless and Andre Johnson always seemed to glide through a game with power, precision and grace.
He was that way in life too. Giving away hundreds of thousands of dollars in the Houston community over the course of his career. Not making a big deal about it. He just did it because he felt it was right.
And he’s a Houstonian. Though he was born and raised in South Florida, he, like so many of us who ‘got here as fast as we could,’ fell in love with the city and its people. As they fell in love with him.
It was hard not to. He had a solid rookie year. Then, in 2004 put on a display that that would send him to the Pro Bowl. He would be selected six more times.
Throughout the bulk of his career there was no doubt he was at least among the top three receivers in the NFL. And he would so often outperform his rivals when he was on the same stage – like his monster game at Arizona in ’09 with Larry Fitzgerald on the other sideline. Or his monumental outing on Thanksgiving in Detroit in ’12 with Calvin Johnson watching.
Someday soon, Andre Johnson will be honored at NRG Stadium. It’ll be exhilarating, like watching him play. The love and respect the city has for his toughness, his mastery of the game, will never go away.
Andre Johnson will always be a Texan.