He was drafted out of Oregon State by the Bengals with the fifth pick in the second round of the 2001 NFL Draft. He was a teammate of current Bengals wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh while at Oregon State. He is also the cousin of Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson and Baltimore Ravens cornerback Samari Rolle.
Johnson is known for his flamboyant playing style and trash talking, which have led to numerous fines being levied against him. He is also known for having a checklist of opposing cornerbacks and judging them on whether they were able to cover him in their matchup. He will only give an opponent a checkmark if they play him in one-on-one man coverage, but they must only beat him on a single play. Johnson has admitted it is more of a self-motivation tool. No opposing players or coaches have publically taken offense to the list as of yet.
Before a game on November 6, 2005, Johnson had created a new list specifically for that game's opponent (the Baltimore Ravens). Before he could show it to the media, though, it was replaced by a list created by head coach Marvin Lewis which asked:
*Did 85 do everything he could to lead his Team to Victory'
*Did he study extra tape'
*Zero mental errors in practice'
*Make a teammate better'
*See all "sights" and "hots" (blitzes)'
*Did he run after the catch'
*Did he finish his blocking'
These new questions delved deeper into the responsibilities of an NFL receiver, reminding Johnson that there is more to his job than simply getting open on the field and catching the football. His original list for that week was posted in his locker in Baltimore when he arrived at the stadium. Johnson took Lewis' list to heart and performed well during the game, gaining 91 yards on 5 catches, mostly against double coverage schemes. Since then his first "85 in 2005" list returned to its normal spot.
He was named to the Pro Bowl in 2003, 2004, and 2005, and has amassed over 1,100 receiving yards in four of his first five seasons. In 2003, he set a Bengals record with 1,355 receiving yards, and later surpassed it in the 2005 season, recording 1,432 yards.
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