Nate Burleson played with a ton of great players during his run in the league, and Calvin Johnson stands out for the wideout from his time spent with the Detroit Lions.
Recently, Burleson took time to discuss his top teammates of all-time in a new piece for NFL.com, and Johnson ended up being high on the list. He placed No. 3 in the mind of Burleson, and the wideout said that the reasoning had everything to do with the wideout’s mindset.
In a world full of divas at his position, Johnson was far from that. He was a player who put his head down and worked hard, and that’s something that Burleson will always admire about the potential Hall of Famer in the making.
Here’s what he wrote about Johnson:
“If Black Panther played wide receiver, he’d be the 6-5, 237-pound Calvin Johnson. Just like Black Panther, Johnson was fast, strong, durable and humble. He worked like a peasant even though he was a king among NFL wideouts. He never lived like a king, though. Never wanted the praise and did everything for the good of the team. One of the most prolific receivers throughout his career, the perennial Pro Bowler was often double- or even triple-teamed and still set franchise and league records. I think he’s done enough to be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but it’s unfortunate that he retired so soon. If he would’ve played even a few more years, Johnson would be a lock.”
Calling the man affectionately named “Megatron” the “Black Panther” is yet another feather in the cap for Johnson, who often times resembled more of a superhero than a football player given his moves on the field. According to Burleson, it was his moves off the field plus how he carried himself which gained him plenty of this additional respect in his locker room.
Johnson was smooth, and the fact he makes this cut for Burleson with such lofty praise is significant to note for the wideout.
Nate Burleson Names Biggest Regret With Lions
Recently, in a piece, NFL.com and NFL Network contributors who were former players were asked to identify their biggest career regrets. Burleson’s story was one Detroit Lions fans will never forget. As he explained, he regretted taking a dive to save some pizza while driving on a road in town.
Here’s Burleson’s story:
“My biggest regret? Trying to save that pizza while driving. I’m dead serious. I swerved three or four times during that 2013 accident and remember getting out of the car to check my legs. There was a short sigh of relief when I realized my legs were fine, but that’s when I noticed my arm was broken (an injury that required surgery). I looked down and remember saying out loud, “I just messed up OUR season.” The Lions were 2-1 at the time and I had just recorded a 100-yard receiving game. We were trending in the right direction and then I missed seven games. We finished 7-9 that year (going 1-5 down the stretch after my return) and missed the playoffs. And that ended up being my last NFL season.
Who knows how that season would’ve played out or how many more years I would’ve been in the league if it weren’t for that deep dish pizza. For the record, though, I still eat it all the time. I just have it delivered now.”
Burleson dove in his car to try and save some pizza in 2013, and as he said, he felt his subsequent broken arm prevented the Lions from doing some major damage that season. Burleson himself only put up 461 yards that year and it could have been way more if not for the injury early on.
The accident bothers Burleson more than Lions fans, who still revere him as one of their favorite former players. Nevertheless, Burleson would have done things differently during his final year with the team.
Nate Burleson Career Stats
Burlseon had a decorated 11 year career in which he put up 5,630 yards and 39 touchdowns. He had stops with the Minnesota Vikings and Seattle Seahawks but finished off his career with the Lions, and as a result, Detroit holds a special place in his heart. He put up 2,083 yards with the Lions and 12 touchdowns in his career as a very productive veteran wideout for the offense.
Calvin Johnson Lions Statistics
Since he came into the league with the Lions in 2007, Johnson wasted little time putting up great plays and amazing statistics. In his career, Johnson put up 11,619 yards and 83 touchdowns and more than that, was a human highlight reel unlike any other receiver on the list. Out of Georgia Tech, Johnson was labeled as one of the freakiest players in the draft and he lived up to that distinction in the NFL.
Johnson shattered Rice’s record of 1,848 receiving yards during the 2012 season and was a stable force for the team, often playing through pain and discomfort on the field. He walked away following the 2015 season, leaving a gaping hole in Detroit’s wideout group. Since, Johnson has been embroiled in a feud with the Lions for the last few seasons over money that the team made him pay back upon retirement.
The hope is Johnson can make up with the Lions before that time, as he continues to roll in the accolades following his career. There is simply no forgetting how good he was, and those memories continue to linger for everyone who loves the game.
That is true even for Johnson’s teammates who loved suiting up next to such a humble hero on the field.