Johnson, Keyshawn

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Keyshawn Johnson
Keyshawn 'Meshawn' Johnson is a former three time Pro Bowl wide receiver, megamotormouth and No.1 Draft pick for the New York Jets.


Background and college

Born on July 22, 1972 in Los Angeles, California, Johnson was the youngest of his mother's six children. While her other children lived with relatives, she and Keyshawn struggled to survive, even living in her car at one point. At a young age, Keyshawn was in trouble with the law, spent time at a reformatory camp, and was the victim of a drive-by shooting. However, by 1990, he had turned his life around, partly due to University of Southern California (USC) football head coach John Robinson. Robinson became a father figure to Keyshawn, allowing him to spend time with the team, fetch balls and helmets, and carry things for the players. Johnson lettered in football and track at Dorsey High School, and was first-team all-state in football. After he earned JC All-America honors at West Los Angeles College, USC offered him an athletic scholarship. Playing for Robinson, Johnson, a two-time All-American selection, led the USC Trojans to wins in the Cotton Bowl and the Rose Bowl. He caught 12 passes for a Rose Bowl record 216 yards and 1 TD in the Trojans' 41-32 victory over the Northwestern Wildcats, earning the game's MVP honors. He wore the number 3 in college, which was later worn by current Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer.

NFL Career

As a Jet

The Jets drafted him with the top overall selection in the 1996 NFL Draft. He was the first wide receiver selected with the number one overall pick since Irving Fryar was chosen by New England in 1984. Of course, it wasn't all roses. Keyshawn decided to hold out. After drawn-out negotiations and a three-week holdout, he finally agreed to a six-year, $15 million contract. 'In the end, we gave, the Jets gave,' he says. 'I was going to be happy for a long, long time, and so was my family.' So, Keyshawn was a Jet, just in time for the 1996 season. Despite missing two games following surgery on his right knee, Johnson finished his rookie campaign with 63 catches for 844 yards and eight touchdowns. All the same, the Jets still finished 1-15, and Rich Kotite was on his way. In 1997, the Jets hired Bill Parcells as head coach, something that met with Johnson's approval. He came out with such gems as 'I felt a new energy return to my body. Suddenly I felt like playing football again, Parcells is on board and I can tell you right now, things are going to be different this season. Very different.'

Just Throw Me The Damn Ball

Literary genius?
Things would be different. Keyshawn had decided to play author. After the grand total of one year in the NFL, he decided the time was right to publish his autobiography. 'Just Throw Me the Damn Ball' came out in May 97. The book turned out to be the literary equivalent of poining a shotgun into a crowded room, and firing. Johnson didn't care who he offended, he just let rip. Among the targets were former Jets coach Rich Kotite (he 'can't coach'), former offensive coordinator Ron Erhardt (he 'didn't know what the hell he was doing'), quarterback Neil O'Donnell (he's 'a stiff puppet'). He saved the worst for popular teammate Wayne Chrebet whom he dismissed as a 'team mascot'. His Jets teammates say the book will have no affect on the team, but Johnson and Chrebet go on to have an icy relationship. 'I shoot from the hip, A lot of people live in a fictitious world; I speak reality.'

Parcells and Groh

Johnson celebrates in the Jaguars game
Johnson led the Jets in receiving in 1997 and 1998. One of his best performances was in a 34-24 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars in a playoff game after the 1998 season. He caught nine passes for 121 yards, including a 21-yard touchdown. He also ran a reverse in for a touchdown, and intercepted a pass while playing safety in the closing seconds of the victory and recovers a fumble. Not one to lavish praise, Parcells sayid simply of Keyshawn after the wide receiver's impressive performance: 'He's a tough kid.' Johnson would go to his first Pro Bowl after the 1998 season. His seven catches for 87 yards help the AFC to a 23-10 victory over the NFC and earn him co-MVP honors with Patriots cornerback Ty Law.

With expectations raised for their 1999 campaign, the Jets' season virtually ended after one play in the first half of the first game. Quarterback Vinny Testaverde went down with a season-ending Achilles' injury against New England. Johnson's frustration boiled over in the postgame press conference. 'Not in a million years would I ever think that I would lose my starting quarterback for the year, it's just one of those things. I don't know what the hell to say. What can you do? There is nothing you can do, you can't do anything. There is nothing. We can't do s----. We couldn't f------ throw.' Johnson would get named to his second Pro Bowl at the end of the season. After the 1999 season, Parcells left, and eventually, Al Groh became head coach. Johnson and his agent felt that he should be the highest paid reciever in the NFL, the only problem was the Jets didn't have the salary cap space. The Jets tried to trade him, but in March 2000, Groh said the Jets were taking Johnson off the trading block but would not renegotiate his contract. However Johnson fired back claiming he was 'desperatley close' to not wanting to play for the team anymore. That did it. In April,] Johnson was traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for two first round draft choices, 12th and 27th (which turned out to be Shaun Ellis and Anthony Becht) in the 2000 NFL Draft.

After the Jets

Johnson signed a 6-year, $52 million contract extension with the Buccaneers that made him the highest-paid wide receiver in the NFL. He still persisted in taking shots at the Jets, especially Groh and Chrebet. He blamed Groh for trading him, saying 'Don't f------ tell me, 'We've got bigger fish to fry right now.' Excuse me? Your biggest fish is out to sea, in the sand. If you don't communicate with me, it's over. It just is. It's sad.' In September 2000, before the Jets played the Buccanners, Johnson let rip again. Talking about Groh: "If he extends his hand, it'll still be extended. ... There's no need for him to say anything to me. ... I don't respect a guy that makes a decision to trade you and then has somebody else tell you." His comments about Chrebet outraged Jets fans: On Chrebet: 'There's no beef with him. You're trying to compare a flashlight to a star. Flashlights only last so long, a star is in the sky forever. He's not even close to me, and anyone who knows football knows that.' Chrebet had the last laugh in the game, catching the winning touchdown pass, while Keyshawn was held to a single catch.

Johnson went on to win a Super Bowl with the Buccaneers in the 2002 season, leading the Bucs in receiving yards. Ten games into the 2003 season, however, Johnson's tenuous relationship with Tampa's head coach, Jon Gruden, helped seal his fate in Tampa. The team traded him on March 19, 2004 to the Dallas Cowboys for Joey Galloway. Reunited with his former coach, Johnson lived up to his advance billing for the Cowboys in 2004, leading the team in receiving yards and tying for the lead in touchdown catches. Johnson was released by the Dallas Cowboys on March 14, 2006 but just over a week later, he signed a four-year, $14-million-dollar deal with the Carolina Panthers. During the Panthers' Monday Night Football game against the Buccaneers on November 13, 2006, Johnson became the first player in NFL history to score a touchdown on MNF with four different teams (Jets, Buccaneers, Cowboys and Panthers). Keyshawn Johnson was released from the Panthers on May 1, 2007 after just one season with the club. He posted 70 receptions for 815 yards and 4 touchdowns in Carolina. On May 23, 2007, Johnson announced he was retiring from the NFL, reportedly turning down offers by several teams.

Stats as a Jet

Regular Season

    Receiving   Rushing
Season Rec Yds Avg TD Lng Att Yds Avg TD Lng
1996 63 844 13.4 8 50 0 0 0.0 0 0
1997 70 963 13.8 5 39 0 0 0.0 0 0
1998 83 1131 13.6 10 41t 2 60 30.0 1 35t
1999 89 1170 13.1 8 65 5 6 1.2 0 12
Total 305 4108 13.5 31 65 7 66 9.4 1 35t

Playoff Stats

    Receiving   Rushing
Season Rec Yds Avg TD Att Yds Avg TD
1998 16 198 12.4 1 2 28 14.0 0
Total 16 198 12.4 1 2 28 14.0 0

After the NFL

Johnson signed a deal with ESPN and appears an as analyst.

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