For a franchise that seems to be constantly spinning its wheels, the Houston Texans now have taken one big move forward as NRG Stadium now has a ring of honor.
In their 16th season of existence, the Texans finally had a candidate worthy of being immortalized when wide receiver Andre Johnson retired in the offseason, and he was honored in style Sunday at halftime of the Texans’ 31-21 win against the Arizona Cardinals.
Not only is Johnson a worthy name for the Texans’ new ring of honor, as the greatest player in the history of the franchise to date, he’s clearly the perfect player to be first on it.
“When we were doing the rehearsal yesterday, we were going through the things, they told me at the point I would turn around and see my name hung up,” Johnson said before the game Sunday. “I actually saw where there was like a black tarp or something over it yesterday. I turned around and looked up and she told me where I would be looking and I saw the black thing up there and it just kind of hit me. I was like, ‘Wow, my name will be up there forever.’”
Johnson came to the Texans in the franchise’s infancy, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2003 NFL Draft. The idea was to have a new favorite target for what was hoped to be the franchise quarterback, David Carr (selected with the No. 1 overall pick the year before in the Texans’ first-ever NFL Draft).
“I got here and got around the team and I was just like, ‘This is an expansion team, they’re in their second year and I want to be the guy that helps this team, you know, get over the hump and win its first championship.’ So, I took that and that’s why I came to work every day and did what I did.”
Of course, Carr never worked out to be the franchise QB, nor did several others who threw passes Johnson’s way during his 12 seasons in Houston. But, thanks in large part to Johnson, the Texans gained relevancy as a franchise (something the new Cleveland Browns are still looking for since returning to the NFL in 1999) despite lacking a superstar at quarterback.
A quiet leader, Johnson was a model of consistency during his time in Houston (something that this year’s injury-plagued Texans can appreciate) and never had off-the-field problems (something pretty much any NFL team can appreciate).
In Johnson’s 12 seasons as a Texan, he played in at least 13 games for 10 of them (and all 16 games in seven of them). Johnson had nine seasons with at least 900 receiving yards, including consecutive years with more than 1,500 yards in 2008 and 2009.
The Texans won their first two division championships (2011, 2012) with Johnson leading the team, and was a major factor in the franchise’s first two playoff wins.
Beyond his greatness on the field, Johnson touched many lives with his giving nature off the field. Pictures of Johnson with mile-long receipts became a staple of the holiday season during his time with the Texans, as his yearly toy store shopping sprees provided gifts to less advantaged children in the Houston area.
And on Sunday, Johnson provided Texans fans a moment of brightness to what has been a joyless, cursed 2017 season.
Thank you, Andre.