Johnson’s impact on locker room will outlive tenure

Friday, November 4, 2016, Vol. 40, No. 45

Tennessee Titans wide receiver Andre Johnson walks off the field for the last time as a player following last week’s home win against the Jaguars. The future Hall of Famer retired this week.

-- Ric Tapia Via Ap

Outside of his game-winning touchdown catch that capped a comeback in Detroit, Andre Johnson didn’t do much on the stat sheet for the Tennessee Titans.

The final ledger, after his retirement on Monday at the halfway mark of the season, shows that Johnson totaled nine catches for 85 yards and two touchdowns in the final season of his 14-year future Hall of Fame career.

That small add-on left Johnson ninth all-time with 1,062 career receptions, 10th all-time with 14,185 receiving yards and in the top 100 with 70 career touchdowns – numbers worthy of Canton five years from now when he becomes eligible for enshrinement into the Hall of Fame.

The fact that he was being phased out of the offense – zero catches in his final three games as a Titan – no doubt weighed on him and probably played a role in his decision to retire.

But more than Johnson’s minimal impact on the field, his presence, even in just three months’ time in Tennessee, seemed to leave a lasting impression in the locker room.

On the team plane for road trips, Johnson would sit with rookie fifth-round pick Tajae Sharpe and offer life advice mixed with tips and tidbits on playing receiver in the NFL. His presence and his attitude quickly permeated the Tennessee receiver room.

“It was shocking, but we all miss him already. He was like a big brother in the group. We all called him ‘sensei,’” wide receiver Kendall Wright said, referring to the Japanese term for a mentor and sage adviser.

More than the few catches he made, Johnson’s contribution came as a behind-the-scenes influence, who knew not only how to be a professional but how to preach that message to others.

“Andre is probably going to be a Hall of Famer, first ballot. He was a very professional football player, and did everything the right way,” veteran tight end Delanie Walker says.

“He didn’t talk a lot, but he played the game very well. It meant a lot to us to have a guy like that in this locker room.”

Titans coach Mike Mularkey, who broke the news of Johnson’s retirement to the team, said he didn’t know if Johnson was fully aware of his impact beyond the football field on the club.

“He meant a lot,” the coach explains. “I don’t know if he knows the impact he’d had on our wide receiver room, just how you go to work every day.

“I’m hoping they took a lot of what he’s all about in that room because he’s about as much of a pro as I’ve ever been around and great man before any kind of player. I’m fortunate I got a chance, even though short, to be around him.”

Center Ben Jones, who was Johnson’s teammate with the Houston Texans, as well as with the Titans, offered similar praise for Johnson.

“I’m happy for him to go out on his own terms,” Jones says. “He’s a great player and a great leader and an unbelievable person. I’m just happy I got to be a part of his career.

“He’s done so much for this team and this locker room, we were just happy to have him.”

Terry McCormick covers the Titans for