Years before I ever began working for the Texans, I used to see a floor-to-ceiling version of Andre Johnson on my then two-year-old's wall. He loved No. 80, even as a baby, and insisted that we get him the Fathead he'd seen somewhere so that he could wake up every day and see his favorite NFL player.
Fast forward to the summer of 2013 and I begin working for the Houston Texans. I met the real-life Andre Johnson and expected a larger-than-life star, larger than the sticker version on my son's wall. But Andre's star power was one that dazzled you with his physicality and acrobatic catches. Off the field, the star player was much quieter. He liked to let his playmaking to do the talking.
Many have said that Andre's ability to make every route look the same before the ball was snapped often threw defenders off balance. The same could be said for his personality. On the outside, he was hard to read. In reality, he was thoughtful, introspective, and insightful. When Andre Johnson spoke, everyone listened.
That's what I'll remember most about Andre.
I remember one particular Texans Radio show we did at a local Verizon store. Every year, the line would wrap around the store with fans waiting to meet Dre. That day, Andre talked about what life would be like after retirement. Fans hung on his every word and as I looked around, people genuinely seemed sad at the thought that, one day, Andre would not be suiting up for a game. He often liked to show up at local high school football games and watch Friday night football in Texas. I remember him saying, he might like to coach at the high school level one day. Andre also talked about going back to Miami for an annual neighborhood get-together in the offseason. (Imagine Andre showing up at your neighborhood block party!) Johnson said he enjoyed visiting the people and places that knew him before he was the two-time All-Pro, seven-time Pro Bowl receiver.
It's no surprise Andre has chosen to settle down in Houston after retiring. This city has embraced him, literally and figuratively. Remember all those touchdown leaps in the endzone sections of NRG Stadium? Andre is a Houstonian and now he'll always be a Texan.
Thanks for the memories, Andre. We're glad you're back.
Check out the 80 best photos of Andre Johnson throughout his Houston Texans career.