Johnson with the children before the 80-second spree began.
His opposing cornerbacks probably have nightmares about the number 80. This holiday season, Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson used his jersey number to create a dreamlike scenario for 12 local children from Child Protective Services.
The children, ages 8-16, were allotted 80 seconds to stuff a shopping cart with whatever they could grab at a local Toys 'R Us store. Each child also automatically received a video game console of his or her choice, along with two video games. When it was all said and done, Johnson had spent more than $12,000 during the first annual "AJ's Holiday Shopping Spree."
The Texans' star receiver said he got a kick out of watching the kids run through the store aisles after he gave them the go-ahead to start shopping.
"As soon as I said, 'Go,' you could hear those buggies rolling, and it sounded like a bunch of things were falling off the shelves as the time was going on," Johnson said. "It was fun."
It was the first Christmas charity event in Houston for Johnson, who said he had been racking his brain for ideas until this event came to him as a suggestion from his uncle, Andre Melton.
"I figure, Andre (Johnson)'s very fortunate, and why put a limit on something that you can do for kids that you can put a smile on their face, kids probably wouldn't have gotten anything for Christmas?" Melton said. "You wind up letting them go into the store and get anything that they want. What better way can you have Christmas?
"I remember my Christmases, maybe I got one thing for Christmas, maybe two, if that. But for these kids to come in and get what they want, that makes me feel real proud of what he's doing."
Johnson smiled when asked about the big bill, then explained why it didn't bother him in the slightest.
"I'm not worried about that," Johnson said. "I'm blessed to be in the situation I am, and I'm very blessed to be able to bless other people. So that's alright with me. I hope they got everything that they wanted."
Johnson was particularly amused by one of the children, Christopher Field, 9, who frantically cleaned out the remote control car section.
"He had me laughing as soon as they started," Johnson said. "He ran straight to the remote control car section. As you can see, it's pretty low right now. He grabbed like five cars.
"When I was his age, I was really into remote control cars. That was my big thing. Even when I first got here, I went and bought me like four or five gas remote control cars. That was something I probably would've been doing, too."
Several clever young shoppers bought footballs to be autographed by the Texans' two-time Pro Bowl wideout, who signed a Texans pennant for each participant afterward. One little girl bought a digital camera so that she could take pictures with Johnson after the shopping spree.
Johnson was touched to notice several of the children grab for presents not only for themselves, but for loved ones as well.
"Some of them, they were thinking about like their little cousins and stuff like that, so you're giving to them and they're thinking about other people," he said. "It was a great thing."
When the photo ops were through and the television interviews concluded, Johnson started making his way to the store's exit. But he was slowed on his way by a seemingly endless procession of children who came up to him for a hug and to say thank you one last time.
The normally reserved receiver couldn't help but smile.
"It's fun, man," he said. "I didn't know how it would turn out at first, but I think it went great. I think a lot of kids are happy. That's all that matters. As long as the kids are happy at Christmas time, that's all that really matters."