Flying under the radar

Andre Johnson leads the NFL in receptions (65). He leads the NFL in receiving yards (752). He also has four touchdown catches, and averages 11.6 yards per catch. He went to the Pro Bowl once (after the '04 season), and could be heading there again.

With the position he plays, and the numbers he produces, Johnson should be as recognizable as Dallas' Terrell Owens, Cincinnati's Chad Johnson or Oakland's Randy Moss.

Of course, what those receivers all have in common is that they are some of the most outspoken players in the NFL. Johnson, despite his gaudy statistics, continues to remain humble, rarely drawing attention to himself when he removes his cleats.

The days of Johnson working in relative national anonymity soon may be over, though, especially if he keeps up his current body of work. Nevertheless, No. 80 is still largely unknown outside of Houston.

A perfect example is what happened Saturday. Once the Texans' plane landed in Jacksonville around 2:30 p.m. ET, four buses drove the team to its hotel south of the city. The players usually have a few hours to themselves before dinner is served and meetings begin.

Down the street from the hotel was a Dave and Buster's, where several college football games were playing on televisions around the bar area. As I sat and watched the Florida-South Carolina game with my colleague, Carmine Pirone, Johnson and cornerback Dexter McCleon walked into the restaurant and sat down to watch the game on another screen.

Despite the sizeable crowd watching the game, Johnson and McCleon were able to sit and eat undisturbed. Aside from the waiter, not one person approached Johnson, or even seemed to recognize him as a professional athlete. Johnson and McCleon didn't do anything to draw attention to themselves, either

Compared to their basketball or baseball counterparts, fewer football players are public figures simply because they wear helmets in the game. But it still amazed me yesterday that Johnson didn't garner any attention given the season he's having as well as the fact that he played football in Florida at the University of Miami.

Like I said, I don't imagine that being the case too much longer. Johnson's star is rising higher each week, and as the Texans improve in the win-loss column, Johnson will receive even more accolades and media attention. Soon he could be on the cover of video games and magazines.

Just don't expect Johnson's personality to change. He's happy just going about his job and trying to help the team win games. The spotlight isn't something that Johnson covets, but he might have to get used to it. **


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