Page 2 of 2   <      

Georgia Tech Receiver Changes Coach's Thinking

Georgia Tech's Calvin Johnson was named the preseason Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year.
Georgia Tech's Calvin Johnson was named the preseason Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year. (AP)

For at least this season, he'll keep giving ACC coaches fits. Defenses have tried double-teaming him, only to see that Johnson can soar over two defensive backs as easily as one. Against Duke last season, Johnson recalled stepping to the line of scrimmage and being greeted by three defensive backs.

"I was kind of laughing to myself when I saw it," he said. "I was like, 'Three people, that leaves somebody wide open.' "

Duke Coach Ted Roof said he couldn't remember employing the triple-team, but added, "I wish we could put 12 on him."

Georgia Tech defensive players sneak into the team film room on Sundays to catch Johnson's latest work when they should be watching tape of their next opponent. Johnson has become a legend of sorts around his teammates, who call him "Neo" after the lead character of "The Matrix" movies and spin stories about their favorite catches.

Heard the one about his first summer camp as a freshman? Defended by James Butler, now a safety for the New York Giants, he faked inside as the ball was being thrown out of bounds. In one motion, Johnson dived out of bounds and caught the ball.

How about the one from last season? Sprinting down the sideline, Ball lofted the ball 40 yards, but too close to the middle of the field, over the head of a defensive back. Johnson leapt over the defender, stretched his arms over the back's head and pulled the ball from behind the defender's back and over his head.

"John Q. Public doesn't see some of his best ones," Gailey said.

Against Wake Forest last season, he jumped at the back of the end zone, two defenders fronting him, pulled down a pass and got his toes down inside the line.

"When I see it again on [TV], I'm like, 'Man, that's crazy,' " Johnson said. "I surprise myself sometimes."

Tech defensive tackle Joe Anoai said he no longer flinches when a stadium loses its collective breath over a Johnson catch; he knows he can just catch it three times that night on highlight shows.

"Reaction to the ball, that's it," Johnson said. "I don't know if other guys can't do it, I just do it all the time."

<       2

© 2006 The Washington Post Company