When Roy Williams gave Calvin Johnson the nickname “Megatron” during their 2007 season with the Detroit Lions, he was referring to Calvin’s size—particularly the size of his freakishly large, “Deceptacon-like” hands.
"Megatron is a different athlete," Roy Williams said back in his days with the Lions. "He's bigger and faster than me.”
What Williams was definitely not making any sort of comparison to with the bad-guy moniker was Johnson’s demeanor—something that may have contributed to him earning a starting position in the 2011 Pro Bowl even more than his wicked stats.
Johnson will be playing in the Pro Bowl this Sunday, Jan. 30 in Hawaii alongside teammate defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh—a first for both the rookie and the fourth year superstar.
It’s no secret to Megatron that being part of a team with some winning buzz weights the Pro Bowl selection process a bit.
In 2008, Tron had 211 more yards than he did in 2010 and one extra reception. He also matched his 2010 touchdown reception total of 12—though in 2008, it was enough to lead the NFL. Still, Johnson was snubbed from the Pro Bowl roster.
“He’s two years overdue,” Lions receivers coach Shawn Jefferson told reporters after Johnson was selected. “After his second year, I felt like he should have been voted into the Pro Bowl then, but our record was 0-16 and that may have contributed to him not making it.“
In fact, Megatron had five more touchdowns that year than Roddy White and six more than Steve Smith, both of whom were selected to represent the NFC at the wide receiver position while Johnson was named an alternate.
To parallel the current film world (coincidentally based on Johnson’s nickname), that’s a snub about equal to leaving Daft Punk and the film Tron: Legacy off the Academy Awards nominations list for Best Original Score, instead only giving them a nod by nominating the film for Best Sound Editing.
Snub or no snub, feature films or football, Johnson maintains that he’s just happy to be in Hawaii this year preparing for his inaugural Pro Bowl.
“I have no expectations,” said Calvin Johnson according to the Lions official site. “I’m just really looking forward to this. Getting some recognition as one of the best is great.”
It’s an understatement to say that Johnson’s presence has been a contributing factor in the Detroit Lions recent ability to turn some heads in the NFL. The team finished this season with their first four-game win streak since the Wayne Fontes era and four more wins than they had the past two seasons combined.
You probably shouldn’t ignore the fact that Tron is a 6’5”, 236 pound, 25-year-old physical monster when analyzing his contribution to the Lions.
Not only did he rack up Pro Bowl stats in 2010, but he had to do it with three different starting quarterbacks throughout the season.
"I said this to the offense the other day,” backup QB Shaun Hill told the Detroit Free Press in late December. “It's very tough to go from one quarterback to another. It's very tough to go from one quarterback to another, back to one, back to another, then go to another one altogether.”
Still, it might be worse to ignore that up to this point in his career, Megatron has used all of his freakish powers for good instead of evil, despite his nickname. You might even assume that in the world of the Transformers he’d probably be more likely to fight alongside Optimus Prime than against him…
But it’s really safe to assume that in the real world Calvin Johnson is a far cry from the typical NFL wide receiver—a position whose elite players aren’t exactly known for exemplary sportsmanship.
But that’s something Johnson’s always seemed to exhibit. Even Tron’s Wikipedia profile makes an interesting reference to his character during his pre-NFL years at Georgia Tech:
“During the 2006 summer, Johnson, who majored in management with a background in building construction, was given the option of working on either constructing environmentally friendly luxury condos, or a project building solar latrines to improve sanitation in Bolivia. Johnson chose the latter, as he wanted to help the less fortunate. The "solar latrines" use the sun’s rays to safely transform bacteria-laden waste into fertilizer.”
“Here’s the bottom line: This kid has the perfect demeanor to be a receiver,” said WR coach Jefferson in a recent article on the Detroit Lions official site. “You can never get too up and you can never be too down. That’s where his maturity has come in. He’s always even-keeled. I have seen his maturity as a player, as a young man, grow.”
In just his fourth season, Calvin Johnson has already set numerous franchise records for the Lions. He’s the only player to ever ring up over 1,000 yards receiving and 12 touchdowns in more than one season. He’s the fastest Lion to reach over 4,000 receiving yards, doing it in just 59 games. He’s the only Lion who’s ever caught more than one 85 plus yard reception.
Though they may not be watching the Oscars this February, maybe Roy Williams and Johnson’s current teammates should consider updating his nickname to be more in tune with the feature film that won’t be receiving the Academy Award for Best Original Score...
With franchise momentum for the first time since most Lions fans can remember, the “Tron Legacy” in Detroit is shaping up to win Calvin Johnson plenty of additional awards and accolades throughout his future in the NFL.