Calvin Johnson’s Record-Breaking Career: A Legacy in Detroit Lions History

Explore Calvin Johnson's record-breaking career in the NFL, from his college days to iconic seasons, and his impact on Detroit Lions.

Calvin Johnson's Record-Breaking Career

The Detroit Lions regular season will begin in just 24 days, and today we look back on Calvin Johnson‘s record-breaking career, one of the best wide receivers the game of football has ever seen.

Calvin Johnson's Record-Breaking Career in Detroit

Johnson was drafted by the Lions second overall in the 2007 NFL Draft after playing his college football at Georgia Tech University, and throughout three seasons, he would catch 178 passes for 2,927 yards, averaging 16.4 yards a catch, and he had 28 touchdowns. His Junior season is when he broke out, making 76 catches for 1,202 yards and 15 touchdowns over 14 games for the Yellow Jackets, also winnings the Fred Biletnikoff Award for Outstanding Receiver.

In his first season with the Lions, he progressed as the season went on and would play in 15 games, making 48 catches for 756 yards, and he had four touchdowns with Jon Kitna as his Quarterback. In his sophomore season, he broke out, making 78 catches for 1,331 yards finishing fifth in the league in receiving yards; he also had 12 touchdowns. Despite the Lions going 0-16-0 that season, Johnson had arrived, and he did all that with five different quarterbacks used that season Kitna, Dan Orlovsky, Daunte Culpepper, Drew Stanton, and Drew Henson throwing the ball.

Calvin Johnson's Record-Breaking Career

In 2009 he got a solid Quarterback in Matthew Stafford when the Lions selected him first overall in the NFL Draft; that first season with Stafford was his worst with the quarterback as he caught 67 passes for 984 yards and had five touchdowns; the following season he caught 77 passes for 1,120 yards and 12 touchdowns however he did catch Stafford's first career touchdown pass which came in a loss to the Minnesota Vikings on September 20, 2009.

In 2011 and 2012, Johnson went off and had record-setting seasons; in 2011, he had 96 catches for 1,681 yards and 16 touchdowns which put him fourth in the league in catches, first in yards, and he finished second in touchdowns behind Rob Gronkowski.

In 2012 despite the Lions going 4-12, Johnson posted a career year catching 122 passes which is tied for the 13th most in a season all-time; he had 1,964 yards receiving, which was the most yards that season and the most yards in a season all-time, he only had five touchdowns though; his best game that season came on December 22 in a 31-18 loss to the Atlanta Falcons, Johnson had 11 catches for 225 yards, it was his second 200+ yard receiving game of the season, and he finished with over 100 yards in 11 of the Lions 16 games that year.

In 2013 Johnson continued his success with 84 catches for 1,492 yards and 12 touchdowns; he only played in 14 games that season and still managed to finish third in the league in yards and tied for fifth in touchdowns. In 2014 he missed some time again, playing in 13 games, but he still reached over 1,000 receiving yards and had eight touchdowns. His final season would be 2015, when he played in all 16 games for the Lions, caught 88 passes for 1,214 yards, and had nine touchdowns. Johnson retired due to the Lions' inability to challenge for honors.

Calvin Johnson's Record-Breaking Career

Calvin Johnson All-Time Rankings

Johnson was one of the best Receivers the game of football ever saw, and it shows where he ranks on the list of all-time stats.

  • Career Receptions – 731 (50th all-time)
  • Receptions in a season – 122 (tied for 13th all-time)
  • Receptions in a game – 14 (tied for 37th all-time)
  • Career Receiving Yards – 11,619 (32nd all-time)
  • Receiving Yards in a Season- 1,964 (1st all-time, 2012) 1,681 (15th all-time, 2011)
  • Receiving Yards in a game – 329 Lions vs. Cowboys October 27, 2013 (2nd all-time)
  • Career Receiving Touchdowns – 83 (tied for 25th)
  • Receiving Touchdowns in a Season – 16 (tied for 15th, 2011)

Johnson also ranks at the top for all Lions Receiving Stats All-Time

  • Career Receptions – 1st all-time
  • Receptions in a season – 2nd and 9th all-time
  • Career Receiving Yards – 1st all-time
  • Receiving Yards in a Season – 1st, 3rd, 4th, and 7th all-time
  • Career Receiving Touchdowns – 1st all-time
  • Receiving Touchdowns in a season – 1st, 6th, 7th, and 8th
Calvin Johnson Detroit Lions

Bottom Line: Calvin Johnson is one of the best Wide Receivers All-Time

After Calvin Johnson's record-breaking career, he retired at the age of 30, and all these years later, you still have to wonder what his numbers would have looked like had he played five more seasons and even where the Lions would have ended up if he did play five more seasons, you'd have to think he would have finished in the top ten all-time in receiving yards for a career. The Detroit Lions made the playoffs the following season after Johnson retired and would lose in the first round to the Seattle Seahawks; if they had Calvin Johnson for that game, do they lose?