Despite being one of the most dominant wide receivers to ever play the game—and still in his physical prime—Calvin Johnson Jr. walked away from the NFL at the tender age of 30. Already holding an assortment of NFL records, including the NFL single-season receiving yards record previously held by one Jerry Rice, Johnson opted to focus on his personal health, rather than additional accolades.
Three years after his stunning choice to retire—a decision that made him the second Lion’s superstar to retire at age 30 after running back Barry Sanders made a similar announcement back in 1999—the man once referred to as ‘Megatron’ because of his machine-like dominance on the gridiron, opened up to Sports Illustrated about his life before and after retirement.
In the interview, Johnson discussed his cannabis usage—a growing theme amongst a number of former NFL players—and its bevy therapeutic benefits.
Calvin Johnson Says He Smoked Weed After Every NFL Game
Johnson estimates that he suffered at least nine concussions during his playing career, a figure, he estimates, is “super conservative.”
“Bam, hit the ground real hard. I’m seeing stars; I can’t see straight,” he said to SI. “But I know in a couple minutes I’m going to be fine. Because I’ve done that plenty of times before.”
In addition to suffering as many concussions as seasons spent in the league, Johnson claims the organization even told him to keep one of his concussions under wraps back in 2012.
“I knew I was concussed because I blacked out. I wasn’t seeing straight. And they wanted me to change my story.”
And while the star receiver was routinely offered a pharmacy’s worth of drugs for his assortment of injuries, he would decline them in favor of a far more…natural treatment. Johnson claimed to have smoked weed after every game in an effort to stay away from highly-addictive opioid painkillers.
Opioid Abuse in the League
“When I got to the league, was opioid abuse,” Johnson said. “You really could go in the training room and get what you wanted. I can get Vicodin, I can get Oxy. It was too available. I used Percocet and stuff like that. And I did not like the way that made me feel. I had my preferred choice of medicine. Cannabis.”
Of course, Johnson’s under-the-table medical marijuana-use made for an easy transition to a second career within the legal cannabis industry. The four-time Pro-Bowler owns two main businesses: Locker Room Consulting, a firm that helps players prepare for life after sports, and Primitive, a Michigan-based cannabis company he co-founded with former Lions teammate Rob Sims.
“I got into cannabis from different personal dealing with pain,” Johson said in an interview at the Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference back in July. “There are so many medicinal qualities to this plant that we haven’t even tapped into. That’s what our company is all about—collecting that data to create the best and most consistent product.”
“We banded together to find a way to improve our lives, now that we are done playing, and the lives of other people who are active,” Sims added.
As for his relationship with the Lions, Johnson told SI that it remains strained. Detroit also required Johnson to pay back a prorated $1.6 million portion of his signing bonus after he announced his retirement. While he claims to hold no ill-will towards the franchise, the former wideout remains distant from the organization.
“I wouldn’t necessarily say I cheer for the Lions,” Johnson said. “I cheer for the players.”
You could also add medical marijuana to the list of things Johnson is “rooting for” in the NFL.
“This plant is god-given—it was always here on earth. It’s a gift.”