“Underappreciated?” Kubiak says when asked about his brilliant seventh-year wideout. “I know he’s not underappreciated here, I’ll tell you that. The respect this town has for him, that this team has for him (is hard to measure). He’s our heart and soul. It says a lot about him that he just continues to come to work every day and embraces his job and does it at the level he does and never says a word.”
Johnson’s burden is being the most productive NFL player over the past six seasons that nobody's ever seen play. The Texans have played two nationally televised, prime-time games since Johnson was drafted with the third overall pick in 2003.
So even though he’s been to three Pro Bowls and was named All-Pro last year after a ridiculous 115-catch, 1,575-yard season, most of the country is more familiar with, say, Jerricho Cotchery than Johnson.
“When you’re a player drafted by an expansion team and you’re trying to become winner... I’m sure Andre’s play and work gets less attention than it would if he was with a perennial playoff team,” said Kubiak.
There are, of course, ways around that detail. Bengals receiver Chad Johns...Ochocinco is a walking, talking, tweeting, Ustreaming example of that.
But Andre Johnson isn’t prepared to go that route.
“Everyone has different personalities,” Johnson said. “I’m a more reserved, laid-back guy. Growing up in my house it was me, my mom and my brother. There wasn’t a lot of talking going on unless someone had something to say.”
Johnson is aware that the path to more visibility (a Dick’s Sporting Goods ad currently running is his first national commercial exposure) usually comes when the public knows who you are. And the public knows who you are when you act out like Ochocinco or Terrell Owens. He’s not having it.
It is, of course, a minor injustice that Johnson isn’t better known. He’s every bit as productive as they’ve been. Over the past three seasons, he’s averaged 6.8 catches and 88.2 yards per game. Last October, he was the AFC Offensive player of the month when his low output for the month was nine catches and 130 receiving yards. And that’s all done with defenses knowing that, aside from Johnson, Houston generally doesn’t have a lot of weapons.
Kubiak, a longtime backup for the Denver Broncos, was around great wideouts like Ed McCaffrey, Rod Smith and, for a season, Jerry Rice.
“People ask about what the great ones have in common,” said Kubiak. “The great ones are workers. Everyone sees the final product but they don’t see the rest of the week. His work habits are as good as I have ever been around. Quality. As a coach, you feel a lot of pressure and an obligation to provide for a player like that.”
By providing, Kubiak means the opportunity to put his team in its best position to win, to make the playoffs to allow players like Johnson get what they deserve in terms of recognition.
And still, Kubiak wondered, “I don’t know if Andre wants that (recognition). He’s such a behind-the-scenes person the way he lives his life. I don’t know that he wants a nickname or the spotlight. You’d have to ask Andre that.”
We did. He said, “I don’t feel overlooked. I’ve never put much into that. I never sit around ands say, ‘Man, they did a story on this guy, why no story on me?’ I’ve never been that way. If someone wants to do a story they’ll try to find me and get it done.”
PFT: Tom Brady, who turns 36 in August, says he has "never felt better throwing the football" and his confidence is peaking.
PFT: Jets rookie quarterback Geno Smith said the draft process taught him an important lesson on taking criticism.
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