Lies, deception and deceit.
These are all tactics used in the pre-draft strategy of NFL general managers and coaches. However, when Lions president Matt Millen and head coach Rod Marinelli claimed that Georgia Tech wide receiver Calvin Johnson was a player they were interested in, they were being honest.
But Millen and Marinelli proclaiming their interest in Johnson didn't stop the rumors from running rampant. Even after the Lions had selected Johnson, the chatter of a possible trade continued – especially when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected defensive end Gaines Adams at No. 4 overall. Adams, according to some, was a player that had also interested the Lions. However, through all the uncertainty, there was one man whose confidence never wavered.
"He (Millen) had told me when I was here that I would not fall any farther than number two," said Johnson during his press conference on Sunday. "After the phone call, I was pretty confident that I was going to stay here."
Johnson's confidence was justified, as the Lions opted to hold onto one of the best wide receiver prospects of all time, rather than ship him off for more help. The decision pleased a surprisingly high amount of fans as well as Johnson, who was impressed with the Lions from his first visit.
"I came on a visit a couple of weeks ago," said the Georgia Tech product. "I got to meet a lot of people in the organization, a lot of the players. I had a great feeling about it."
Some believe that Johnson, a native of Georgia, hoped to be drafted by the Atlanta Falcons. However, Johnson appears to be more concerned with how he's playing the game, rather than where he's playing it.
"I was just ready," said Johnson. "I will play anywhere. I just want to play football."
Johnson will have the opportunity to play football, as he is expected to start immediately for the Lions. He will not be handed a starting role; however, based on his talents as well as his belief in hard work, he should have little trouble earning the job. This coaching staff will reward hard work and Johnson has a tremendous work ethic.
"I carry high expectations for myself," he said. "Being called the best player, if I am the best player, I want to stay the best player, so I have to go out there and work even harder at my trade. Whatever I do hard off the field, everything will go well for me on the field. I guess that is why you can say that I am such a hard worker."
Johnson's work ethic and character may have garnered as much of the Lions interest as his tremendous physical tools – an interest that proved to be real. When other organizations saw the Lions looking at Johnson, they saw a smoke screen. The Lions, meanwhile, simply saw something special.