VICE CHAIRMAN AND CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER D. CAL MCNAIR
“On behalf of the McNair family and the Houston Texans organization, I would like to thank everyone for joining us today. I am honored to welcome home, Andre Johnson. We are happy to have you back here at NRG Stadium - right where you belong. I believe everyone in this room knows how much of an impact Andre Johnson has made on the football field over the course of his tremendous career. Throughout his 12 seasons with the Texans, Andre broke records at the wide receiver position that are still unmatched today. Fortunately for my family and the entire organization, we know Andre not only as an incredible football player, but also as an unbelievable person. His unwavering commitment to the community makes him the epitome of the type of player we strive for. Andre, thank you. Thank you for all that you have done and continue to do for the Houston Texans and for the City of Houston. You will forever hold a special place in the Texans family. If everyone could now turn their attention to the TV screens, we’re going to take a look back on Andre’s unforgettable career. Congratulations and welcome home.”
EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT OF FOOTBALL OPERATIONS AND GENERAL MANAGER RICK SMITH
“Greatness. Greatness. Greatness is often measured by moments of significance. Big moments. Athletes that strive and produce in those moments of huge importance are often labeled as great. ‘That was a great play he made.’ ‘What a great game he played.’ ‘He was a great player.’ ‘What a great career that guy had.’ Andre Johnson was a great football player. Yeah, we could point to the stats – and I have them all here. They’re impressive when you look at them. The franchise’s all-time leader in receptions, receiving yards – over 13,000 receiving yards, 13,597. Career receiving touchdowns. Yeah, he’s got 51 career 100-yard games. Numerous individual game records. Numerous records on the football field. I could point to his activity in the community and the Andre Johnson Foundation that he founded back in 2003 and the over $400,000 of funds that he’s raised in the community or the Playbook for Success program that he started. There are all kinds of things that I could tell you that would define greatness, but his greatness in the context of what I’m describing goes beyond the stats. It goes beyond those memorable moments that we just saw on the video – and I’ve got my own. We all have our own, right? I’ve got two that come to mind. The first of which is back in 2008 and we’re 0-4 and it’s the fourth quarter and it’s fourth down. It’s what everybody in the stadium knows to be an interception that you (Andre Johnson) just took the ball away from the defender against the Miami Dolphins and totally changed our season, saved our season. I think about that moment for me. I think about a moment that’s a little bit more personal a couple years later as I grew up in Virginia. We didn’t have a pro football team so the closest thing was a team in (Washington) D.C., so we go to play that game and it’s overtime and we win that game. I still have a picture of you on my wall in my office of you when you caught that touchdown and the safety has his helmet in his hands because he just couldn’t believe it. Great moments for sure. I’m sure you have yours. But it’s not the moments or your moments that define why this man is who he is to this organization and to this city. I read a quote in my meditative reading yesterday, and it said, ‘Greatness isn’t for the chosen few. Greatness is for the few that choose.’ Andre Johnson chose to be great. He chose to show up every day and work the way he did. He chose to work the way in every meeting, every practice. He chose to lead, he chose to follow. He chose to represent this organization, this city, his family and himself in a way that every other player who wears our uniform will be measured by. I had the chance to be around a couple of wide receivers at the end of their careers or toward the end of their careers. Hall of Fame wide receivers. Two of them are in the Hall of Fame now. Jerry Rice and Andre Reed. Those two men, I watched them work. I watched them come in the building every day, I watched them go to meetings, I watched them on the practice field, I watched them mentor young players, just like I watched this guy do the same type of thing. I don’t have a vote, but in five years I would vote ‘yes.’ I would vote ‘yes.’ Congratulations on a great career, man. Right now we are happily going to sign Andre to a contract that Mr. (Kennard) McGuire and I have successfully negotiated. Contrary to what has been said, this is an actual NFL player contract for the 2017 season. Congratulations.”
WR ANDRE JOHNSON
““Well first of all, I would like to thank everyone for coming out. I wasn’t expecting this to be this big, but there are so many people I can thank throughout my career. I have been playing this game of football since I was six years old. So many people have affected me throughout my journey throughout this game. I’m very thankful to them for that. I can go back to Little League coaches, elementary teachers, high school coaches and so many people along the way that have helped me. When I was drafted here in 2003, I really didn’t know what to expect. I was coming to a new city. I had been in Miami my whole life. Just didn’t really know what to expect. All I knew was that I was coming here to play football and the City of Houston embraced me. They embraced me like no other. They welcomed me with open arms, and I’m very thankful for that. I would like to thank the McNair family for drafting me in 2003. What you guys have done for me and my family has completely changed our lives, so I’m very thankful to you guys for that. I hope that I pleased you guys with the way I played the game. Also, I would like to thank my mom. Everything that I did on that field was because of you. A lot of people don’t know, but when I played the game of football I played the game very angry, and the reason I played that way was just because of where I grew up. I just never wanted to go back to living that lifestyle again. So, seeing the sacrifices you made. I remember when you’d be falling asleep coming to pick me up from night school. It was just tough times that we experienced as a family that I never want to experience again. So, I’m very thankful to you for that. To my uncle, Andre, you pretty much played the father figure for me. Ever since I was a little kid, I really had no male figure to go to, and you’ve been there with me every step of the way. I thank you for your advice. I thank you for your love. Even at times when I felt like I had nobody to talk to, I could always come to you. So, I’m very thankful to you for that and I love you. Now that I got that out of the way. I didn’t think I’d be up here crying, but I don’t know, it’s just a feeling you get, you know, just being up here and knowing you’re closing a chapter – something that you’ve done for a long time. But, when I was drafted here I really didn’t know what to expect. Coming to a new franchise. I remember the commercials with David Carr having no O-line. I was just like, ‘Man, what is this that I’m walking into?’ But, when I got here, I just came in and I took the challenge. I always like to be the underdog. I took the challenge and I just wanted to do everything I could to put this organization on the map. The only regret I have is not helping this organization win a World Championship. But, other than that, I just tried to give the organization everything I could whether it was playing injured – you were going to have to drag me off the field in order for me not to play. I remember having a lung contusion and sneaking back out on the field when they tried to still take my helmet away from me. It was that important to me. It was that important for me to help put this organization where I wanted it to be, and it meant that much to me. To my teammates, you know I love you guys. I would give anything to go back on the field with you guys, to go back to battle with you guys. Those were some of the best – those are memories I’ll never forget. The good times and the bad times. Battling in games, times when we were out – people counted us out and we proved everybody wrong. Winning our first playoff game against Cincinnati. It took us a little while but we finally got it done. Just competing. Competing against J-Jo (Johnathan Joseph) and Kareem (Jackson) and all the other guys. You guys made me better. I looked forward to going against you guys every day. J.J. (Watt) running me down, punching the ball out. Just competing every day. It was so much fun, and those things that you experience over your career, those are the things you never forget. You can’t get those things back. This game is so special because you have guys that come from different backgrounds, different places, that all come together for one common goal. That’s why they say football is the greatest sport, because you have to have all 11 guys on the same page. You just can’t have like one guy in basketball go out and score 80 points or a guy in baseball can hit four or five home runs. You have to have all 11 guys on the same page. So, I’m very thankful to you guys just for your hard work, your dedication and just helping me to help this organization get to where it wants to be. But, I’m going to challenge you guys because I couldn’t help this organization get the World Championship. So, I want you guys to help me get me a ring. So, I’m going to be rooting for you guys. You know, I get to be a fan now. Even when I left here – when I was with the Colts and the Titans – my heart never left this place. I could never imagine myself wearing a Colts or a Titans uniform, but it happened. That’s the nature of this business. It is what it is. Like I said, it’s the nature of the business. It happened and we’ve moved on from it. But, to be back here today is very special. It’s a great feeling. Driving in this morning, I had so many things running through my mind. I really couldn’t even sleep last night. I was kind of tossing and turning a little bit just thinking about the memories of just being here for games and things that have happened and spending time with your teammates and things like that. Those are the things, like I said, you don’t get back. That’s the big adjustment now for me with my retirement. I’d also like to thank the guys that don’t get much recognition. Mike Parson, the equipment guys, Geoff Kaplan, Roland (Ramirez), the trainers. Those are the guys who helped me day in and day out to make sure my body was prepared – that I could go out and compete at a high level. So, I’d like to thank you guys also. I’d also like to say thank you to the fans. The love that I’ve been getting has been amazing. I’ve came home and I’ve retired, and I know that’s what you guys have wanted. It’s finally done. I’m very excited about it. I‘ll still be here in the City of Houston. To my teammates, I’m here for any phone calls or anything you guys need. I’m here for you. Don’t call me about no money. But anything you guys need, man, I’m here for you. I’m an open book. Like I said, I’m going to be rooting for you guys. I want to see you guys accomplish that ultimate goal. It would mean the world to me to see you guys do that. With that being said, thank you to everyone that came out for this event. It’s been a great honor. My career ends here, so I’m very excited I was able to come back home to Houston and do it. Thank you.”
Do you have a great moment or game that sticks out in your mind?
Andre Johnson: “We were talking about that earlier. It would be the game when we won our first playoff game. That’s probably like one of the best feelings in the world because we waited so long to get to that one and accomplish it. The first one against Cincinnati.”
What are some of the things you tried to pass on to younger players that you set the example for?
Andre Johnson: “I think the biggest thing is just doing it the right way. Coming to work every day, putting in the work. You just don’t go out on Sundays and just play and put up the numbers by just showing up. You have to put the work in. You have to make sure you’re on the same page with your quarterback, with your teammates. That’s what I just tried to instill in the younger guys when I was playing.”
What does it mean to you to have your former teammates here supporting you?
Andre Johnson: “It means a lot. Like I said, this is what you get in the locker room, the comradery, you don’t really get that from the outside. These are the guys that I was around every day, working out with, on the field battling to win games. You develop a comradery that’s unmatched. It’s something I guess I really can’t put into words but you have to be in the locker room and go through it to really understand it.”
You will be eligible for the Hall of Fame in five years. How important is that to you and have you started thinking about it yet?
Andre Johnson: “People have mentioned it to me but I haven’t thought five years down the road. But if it happens, it’ll be a very exciting time.”
Have you guys thought about how you will honor Andre Johnson during the season? Will you retire his jersey or put him in a ‘Ring of Honor’?
Rick Smith: “We’re having those conversations. We are absolutely planning to have something in the fall for Andre to recognize him at one of the games this fall.”
What advice could you give to the younger players to get to where you are today?
Andre Johnson: “Well, I would tell them, any high school player, to take advantage of your opportunity. Use your resources around you: your teachers and people like the faculty and staff that are there. I always tell people because with me going to college, I was kind of battling my senior year to make sure that I had the right GPA and things like that. So, I would tell them not to procrastinate and get started on it early. As far as the college level, just play football. Make sure your grades and things are right, you know, because we’re a student-athlete first. Just keep working. I think that’s the biggest thing that got me to where I was at. Me working was the most important thing. I would never let anything else get in the way of what I wanted to accomplish. You know, I would never let anybody else distract me from my goal. I had a goal in my mind and I was going to accomplish it no matter what. No friend, nobody could distract me from that.”
Will you continue work with the Andre Johnson Foundation and why was it so important for you to be a part of the community?
Andre Johnson: “I always said if I ever made it that I – you just never forget where you come from. So, I felt like playing here in the City of Houston, you know, people get to see you on TV but they never get to see you in person. So, to be out there interacting with them and doing things for them, it gives people hope. You know, you never know what people are going through in life. You never know what kind of day they’re having. You know, a simple handshake or a hug can change somebody’s life. So, that’s what I choose to do and I’ll continue to do.”
What did it mean to you when Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager Rick Smith said that you will be what they measure every Texans player by?
Andre Johnson: “I don’t know. When I played I didn’t do it to be measured up against anybody. I just wanted to play and win and I just wanted to do whatever I had to do to win. That’s what I was going to do. I know it’s a team game but if I had to put the team on my back, then I was going to do that. It didn’t matter what it took. I just wanted to win, and that’s just the way that I approached the game.”