The Detroit Lions superstar has exchanged jerseys with fellow receivers, Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown and Cincinnati’s A.J. Green, this season and has a collection of keepsakes on hangers in his closet.
“I’ve got eight to 10 hanging up and eventually I’m going to get them signed and put up in my basement in frames on the wall,” Johnson said in an interview with The Associated Press. “I can’t tell you when I first started doing it.”
He doesn’t expect the next time to be Monday night after Detroit (7-6) hosts the Baltimore Ravens (7-6) in a possibly pivotal matchup as both teams hope to close the month well enough to be in the playoffs.
“It’s nothing personal, but I don’t know any of those guys very well,” Johnson said. “I usually know before the game if it’s going to happen. I knew I was going to trade jerseys with A.J. because we train together in the offseason. Sometimes, I’m just a fan of the guy and we’ll switch jerseys.”
It’s a fitting ritual for the Lions‘ most humble star player since Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders simply handed or tossed footballs to officials after scoring more than 100 times from 1989-98.
Johnson has more of an aw-shucks personality than a look-and-listen-to-me persona that many players have and have had at his position.
Brown said it was a “golden opportunity” to swap jerseys with Johnson last month. The Steelers standout has been looking up to Johnson since 2007 when he was a freshman at Central Michigan and the No. 2 overall pick in the NFL draft was starting to show glimpses of his potential.
“Having the chance to play football in Michigan, you heard a lot about Megatron,” Brown said. “I’ve been a fan ever since. Had a chance to go see him play once when I was in college. What a great opportunity to come out here and watch him work.”
Ravens rookie Matt Elam praised the 28-year-old Johnson on Wednesday, but also took what was taken as shots, calling him “pretty old,” and saying the plan was to “make him uncomfortable,” by getting physical.
“Sometimes you usually know the point where to keep your mouth shut,” Johnson told reporters. “He’s a rookie. He’ll learn. Hopefully this Monday.”
The last time an NFL player uttered anything remotely construed as criticism of him going into a game against Detroit was in October when Dallas receiver Dez Bryant said he could do anything Johnson could do.
Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco said Elam’s comments made him shake his head, wondering why the safety said what he did.