Johnson to forgo senior season, enter draft
ATLANTA -- For Calvin Johnson, this was a no-brainer.
Georgia Tech's star receiver announced Monday that he will give up his senior season to enter the NFL draft, fully aware that he should be one of the top players selected.
Mel Kiper Jr.'s latest Top 5 on his Big Board for the 2007 NFL Draft:
1. Calvin Johnson, WR, Georgia Tech
Even his parents, who are adamant that he get his college degree, knew there was no use putting off the pros any longer.
"It's one of those situations where he's got to maximize the moment," Calvin Johnson Sr. said. "These opportunities don't come along very often. He made the right decision for himself. He didn't feel a lot of pressure from us."
Almost from the day he stepped on campus, the younger Johnson was expected to last only three seasons with the Yellow Jackets. It was immediately clear that he was a rare combination of size (6-foot-5, 235 pounds), athleticism and hand-eye coordination.
He runs a 4.4 40-yard dash and has a 45-inch vertical leap -- a combination that makes him difficult to defend, even with a scheme keyed to stop him.
"I think the sky's the limit," Georgia Tech coach Chan Gailey said. "He has all the tangible factors to be a great, great player. He has all the intangible factors to be a great, great player."
By most accounts, Johnson will be one of the top players selected in the April draft. In fact, he could go first overall to the Oakland Raiders, who are desperate to improve an offense that averaged just 10.5 points a game and might not bring back disgruntled wideouts Randy Moss and Jerry Porter.
Johnson was so confident that he didn't bother checking with the NFL advisory panel that rates the potential of juniors who are considering whether to enter the draft. This guy is a first-rounder all the way -- it's just a matter of how soon his name is called.
"The NFL has been a dream of mine," he said. "That's where I've wanted to be since I started playing football."
In just his second college game, Johnson had eight catches for 127 yards and three touchdowns to lead an amazing comeback win at Clemson. Later that season, he came up with an amazing one-handed catch against North Carolina State, prompting an opponent to dub him "Spider-Man."
Johnson closed his college career with his best season of all, catching 76 passes for 1,202 yards and 15 touchdowns. He was chosen to The Associated Press All-America team and won the Biletnikoff Award as the nation's top receiver.
"It was the logical thing to do," his father said. "He would have been doing himself a disservice if he didn't go."
Johnson made his announcement at Georgia Tech's football complex, flanked by his father, mother Arika and sister Erica.
"This is the best way to go," said the receiver, who assured his parents that he will complete his degree. "I had a great time here at Tech. It's been a tough decision. But I made the choice to leave."
In his final college game, Johnson had nine catches for 186 yards and two touchdowns in a 38-35 loss to West Virginia in the Gator Bowl.
"What can you say about Calvin Johnson?" West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez said. "We knew coming in he was going to be dangerous, but he just ran over top of us."
Johnson thrived at Georgia Tech even while facing persistent double-teaming and working all three seasons with an inconsistent quarterback, Reggie Ball, who usually struggled to complete half his passes.
Johnson's teammates held out faint hope that he might return, but they knew he couldn't pass up the opportunity to move on to the NFL.
"I was thinking if he came back, we might make a run at the national championship," running back Tashard Choice said. "I would like to have him back, but the big guy has got to go. It's time."
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press