Anwar Richardson had a nice piece on MLive yesterday about Calvin Johnson and his desire to be even better in 2012 than he was in 2011. The article has several nice quotes from Johnson, so I recommend giving it a read if you haven’t already, but here’s the one that really puts Calvin’s drive on display:
"“There’s always more room for growth,” Johnson said. “If you feel you’ve reached the point where you don’t have anything work on … I’m at a loss for words right now. Just knowing me, just myself, I always feel like there is something I can work on every year.”"
After reading this quote (and a couple others like it) in the article yesterday, I was struck by three thoughts in rapid succession.
The first was giddy excitement over the idea of an even better version of Calvin Johnson donning the Honolulu Blue and Silver (Megatron 2.0, if you will). I allowed my mind to wander: can you imagine the best wide receiver in the league suddenly taking his game to the next level? What would that even look like? 120+ catches, 20+ touchdowns, and 2,000+ yards? Is that even possible?
That last question snapped my mind back to reality. He might get incrementally better the next few years, but another level probably doesn’t exist. The discussion in my mind went something like: the guy just finished the season with the seventh most receiving yards ever. There’s only so much you can ask of one person. This is really just a case of him saying the right thing. I mean, he believes it, but it would be a feat even to repeat the season he had in 2011.
Then the final thought hit me. How often do we hear elite-level NFL receivers talking about working hard on the field? About the nitty-gritty stuff like route-running and maintaining focus to eliminate dropped balls; about mutual motivation and learning with his teammates and coaches (all things Calvin mentions in the article)?
Superstar receivers are notorious for their drama and antics, but Calvin isn’t chattering about how often he needs to “get the damn ball”. He’s not admitting to the world that he takes plays off during games when he feels a little bit tired. He’s not filing paperwork to get his name legally changed to Ocho Uno. He’s not telling us about his end zone choreography or looking for places on his uniform to hide a sharpie.
The refreshing thing about Calvin Johnson is his team-first attitude and consummate professionalism. There’s no fear of locker room feuds or unsportsmanlike penalties with him, nor much risk of an “off-field incident”. He strives to make himself a better player, but I don’t think he’s doing it for the individual accolades. Honors and awards are always nice, and I’m certain he appreciates them, but his words and actions continually show us that winning as a team is paramount in his mind.
It’s fun to root for Johnson because he puts up incredible numbers on the field, first and foremost, but it’s always extra special to cheer for an athlete who’s also a quality individual.