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Calvin Johnson Retired in His Prime, But Where is Megatron Now?
AP Photo/Rick Osentoski

Calvin Johnson was at the top of his game when he retired from football, opting to walk away at the start of his 30s rather than continue to battle as a member of the Detroit Lions.

The wide receiver played nine seasons in the NFL, all of them in Detroit, and established himself as the best wideout in the league.

Despite all his talent, however, Johnson retired after his age-30 season in 2015, walking away from the game he loves in order to pursue other aspirations in retirement.

So, what is Megatron doing nowadays?

College Career

Coming out of Sandy Creek High School, wide receiver Calvin Johnson Jr. attended Georgia Tech, where he played on the football team under head coach Chan Gailey. Throughout his collegiate tenure, Johnson played in 36 games and logged 178 receptions and 28 touchdowns.

His last year in college was prolific. Megatron racked up 1,202 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns en route to earning the Fred Biletnikoff Award and being named a Consensus All-American and the 2006 ACC Player of the Year.

NFL Career

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Calvin Johnson was a first-round pick (second overall) by the Detroit Lions in the 2007 NFL Draft, after the Raiders drafted Jamarcus Russell first overall. The Lions were rumored to be looking to trade Megatron, but a deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers fell through and Johnson started his pro football career in Detroit.

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He would play his entire career in the NFC North, frequently pitted up against the likes of the Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings, and Chicago Bears.

In 2008, Johnson led the NFL with 12 receiving touchdowns and broke the 1,000-yard threshold for the first time in his career. The receiver would make his first Pro Bowl in 2010 after another 12-touchdown campaign.

In 2011, Johnson earned the first of his three First-Team All-Pro selections, having racked up 1,684 yards and 16 touchdown receptions. He followed that season up by shattering Jerry Rice’s single-season receiving yards record, logging 1,964 yards on the year and hauling in a league-high 122 receptions.

Despite that, he and quarterback Matthew Stafford only connected for five touchdowns in 2012.

The superstar wide receiver continued to dominate over the next few seasons, but despite all the work Johnson put in on the field, the Lions remained dismal, failing to make the Super Bowl, or even win a game in the playoffs, in any of Megatron’s nine seasons with the team.

They even managed to become the first NFL team in history to go 0-16 when they went winless in 2008.

Retirement

After a 7-9 campaign in 2015 that saw Detroit miss its seventh postseason in nine years, Johnson decided to retire during the offseason. The Lions forced Johnson to pay back a significant amount (he estimates it at $1.6 million) of the $16 million signing bonus he collected when he re-signed with the team in 2012.

The dispute rubbed Johnson the wrong way, and the former Detroit Lion made clear to the Detroit Free Press how he feels about the franchise.

“The only way they’re going to get me back is if they put the money back in my pocket. Nah, you don’t do that. I don’t care what they say. They can put it back, they have me back. That’s the bottom line.”

For reference, the Indianapolis Colts told Andrew Luck he could keep the $32 million signing bonus from his contract when he retired in 2019.

Many fans expected Megatron to return from retirement, but the wideout told ESPN in 2016 that he was content with life after football.

Johnson revealed to Sports Illustrated that a large part of the reason he chose to step away from football was the constant pain his body endured as well as the amount of concussions he sustained, which he believes to be at least nine.

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Calvin Johnson Now

When Johnson suffered injuries during his NFL career, he claims it was incredibly easy to receive potentially dangerous medicines such as Percocet, Vicodin and Oxycontin. However, he claims his preferred medication was cannabis.

Well, it’s clearly something he’s passionate about considering he co-founded a cannabis company, Primitiv, in retirement alongside former teammate Rob Sims.

Johnson currently resides with his wife Brittney and youngest son, C.J. in Detroit, Michigan, and also owns a home in Atlanta, nearby his older son, Caleb.

In addition to Primitiv, the 35-year-old invests in real estate, runs a youth football camp and founded Locker Room Consulting, an organization which aims to help athletes prepare for life after sports.

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Johnson also featured on ABC’s Dancing With the Stars and was rumored to be on the cast of CBS’ Celebrity Big Brother, but ultimately didn’t appear on the program.

While he isn’t actively in contact with the Lions, he remains one of the best players in franchise history, alongside Barry Sanders. This past offseason, Johnson spoke with the Lions’ wide receivers, via Zoom, rather than in-person due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The 35-year-old has also made appearances at offseason practices for the Miami Dolphins and Oakland Raiders in retirement.

Johnson was among 130 former NFL players nominated for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2020.

What his career lacked in longevity, it more than made up for in terms of overall production. And despite his lack of playoff success, Johnson certainly boasts the credentials of a Hall of Famer.

MORE: Barry Sanders Retired in His Prime, But Why Did He Do It?

Karl Rasmussen is a sports writer living in Brooklyn, NY. He studied journalism at the University of Oregon and is an avid fan of the Oregon Ducks, Portland Trail Blazers, New York Yankees and New York Jets.
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