So many wide receivers today need to conjure up a dance or a corny routine in order to garner media attention. Even after making a simple first down, the truly self-centered divas have become their own endorsement-seeking public relations firms. Gaudy numbers really don’t tell the full story, or properly measure the true worth of just a few wide receivers who go about doing their work while putting the goals of the team before their own.
The short list of receivers who produce star-studded work without diva-like drama includes the following players:
The quiet cool of Andre Johnson epitomizes the Latin phrase “Actum Non Verba”, which means “Actions not words.” Johnson is arguably the best wide receiver in the NFL. He is football’s equivalent of a five-tool player. Speed, size, quickness, the toughness to knife across the middle of NFL defenses and create yards after the catch, and finally the vertical jump and fly paper hands to consistently pluck the ball free from double coverage. Believe me, he is all of that and more. Like a quiet storm, Johnson leaves defensive coordinators quaking in fear of how he might wreck their game plans once he has blown through town. Rarely does a receiver collect 10 passes in a single game, but Johnson did it seven times last season and already three times in eight games in 2009.
His regal demeanor makes him a coach’s dream and the perfect teammate. If Johnson doesn’t experience postseason play before his career has come to an end, it would be as criminal as Stevie Wonder having never wrote his epic creation that is the award-winning album “Songs in the Key of Life.” We should all cheer for Johnson to be unleashed on to the NFL’s biggest stage and in its biggest games. If he is, then get ready to see something special.
The professional poise of Larry Fitzgerald has taken the league by storm. He shares his knowledge with other young receivers during his offseason workouts. Fitzgerald never complains to his quarterback about where the ball is or is not or who it is going too. His hard work is aimed to produce wins more than stats. We need more players in this league like Fitzgerald. As he continues to train and mentor other young wide receivers around the league, I’m sure his humble spirit will also be a shared resource.
The blue collar worker that is Hines Ward has made a Super Bowl MVP out of a receiver who entered the league as a special teams player. Before Ward caught one ball in Pittsburgh, he had to cover kicks and participate in the Steelers’ dreaded training camp ritual as a tackler in the Oklahoma drill. No diva receiver could ever flourish in Pittsburgh. The blue collar fan base would never tolerate one of its star players not willing to do the dirty work.
I’ve always said that Ward plays the wide receiver position unlike anyone who has ever played the game. His head-knocking blocks have become his calling card for toughness and unselfishness. When you have passed both Hall of Famers Lynn Swann and John Stallworth in the record books, not many words are needed to declare your greatness.
The model of maturity shown by Reggie Wayne should never be understated. Wayne was mostly thought to be the Colts’ No. 2 receiver behind Marvin Harrison, but many NFL defenders will tell you that Peyton Manning has been playing with two No. 1’s for quite some time. Wayne has measured up to the demanding standards set by his quarterback and has achieved some eye-popping numbers in the process. He is a consistent and polished route runner. His five consecutive seasons with over 1,000 receiving yards should come as no surprise. No touchdown dance, no loud mouth proclamations of how good he is compared to others. Wayne simply speaks softly, but carries a big stick.