“I want to get this team to the playoffs,” he would say.
Now, after several frustrating seasons, Johnson and the Texans have reached that goal. They will face Cincinnati today in the franchise’s first playoff game.
This is Houston’s 10th season, and Johnson has been there for all but Year 1. That makes him the longest-tenured player on the roster and the only one who’s been in Houston longer than coach Gary Kubiak.
The receiver is the face of the franchise. When the Texans were at their worst, he was one of the only recognizable names on the team.
Johnson was long considered one of the NFL’s top receivers, and many questioned why he chose to remain with the Texans when they were never even close to reaching the postseason.
Some also wondered if this team would ever make the playoffs. Johnson wasn’t among them, though he never thought it would take this long.
“I always thought positive about it,” he said. “It’s been some frustrating times and I’ve had people ask me why didn’t I leave? Why did I stay? I just wanted to be a part of something special. I wanted to be here when the Texans got in the first playoff game.”
Cincinnati last reached the playoffs in 2009, but has been to the postseason just three times in the past 21 years. The Bengals last postseason victory came at the end of the 1990 season with a 41-14 win over the Oilers.
Bengals rookie receiver A.J. Green, a former Georgia star, has with 65 receptions for 1,057 yards and seven touchdowns.
He, too, realizes how lucky he is to be in the playoffs, given that Cincinnati cornerback Nate Clements has waited more than a decade to get there.
“Being my first year and being the first time in the playoffs, I haven’t experienced anything else,” Green said.
“Just talking to a guy like Nate, he’s been in the league 11 years and this is his first time in the playoffs. That’s crazy. So that’s a good feeling.”