In fact, defensive end Gary Walker, wide receiver Jerome Mathis and Johnson were the only Texans players to make a Pro Bowl and receive a first-team All-Pro nod by 2006, the franchise’s fifth season in existence.
To say Johnson carried the franchise from 2003 to 2011, when the Texans made their first playoff appearance, would be accurate and appropriate.
For Texans fans, that is what made it such a no-brainer to put Johnson in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Only a player Hall of Fame worthy could carry the weight of an entire franchise for so long, without being one to touch the ball on every play like a quarterback does.
Finally, the Hall of Fame selection committee recognized what Houstonians have for 20 years. Johnson was not just a really good player on bad teams. He was a diamond in the rough.
“The best player I’d ever seen, day in and day out at practice,” said current Texans head coach DeMeco Ryans, who was Johnson’s teammate for six seasons. “Like, the way he worked, the way he showed up the same way in games, no matter if he was double-teamed, triple-teamed. Everybody knows he’s getting the ball.”
That was Ryans making the case for Johnson at the NFL Honors red carpet last Thursday, shortly before the induction was formally announced.