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News: Clarence E. Hill Jr.-->A STAR IS REBORN

Discussion in 'News Zone' started by adbutcher, Jun 8, 2004.

  1. adbutcher

    adbutcher K9NME

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    A STAR IS REBORN
    The famously vocal new Cowboy Keyshawn Johnson is ready to resume his career and family life in Texas
    By Clarence E. Hill Jr.
    Star-Telegram Staff Writer

    IRVING - It's been seven months since wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson was essentially fired by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with six games to go in the 2003 season.

    And its been roughly 90 days since he was traded to the Cowboys for receiver Joey Galloway, reuniting him with coach and erstwhile father figure Bill Parcells from their days with the New York Jets.

    Johnson is taking part in his first minicamp with the Cowboys at the team's Valley Ranch headquarters.

    It's his first official football-related team activity since his ugly divorce from Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden in November, and the beginning of the rest of his career -- one that he says will end with another Super Bowl ring and recognition as one of the all-time greats.

    If truth be told, the departure from Tampa and the move to Dallas was a good thing for the Johnson family.

    The time away from the game, which included some thoughts of retirement, allowed him to reassess his personal life.

    Johnson had a spiritual rebirth. He is reconciling with his ex-wife Shikiri and is moving his family to the Metroplex full-time. The Johnsons used to split time between Los Angeles and whatever city Keyshawn was playing in. But Johnson has sold his $4.5 million Bel-Air home, bought a new place in Frisco and plans to enroll his children -- Maia, age 8, and Keyshawn Jr., 5 -- at Greenhill School.

    "I guess this is a fresh start for me," Johnson said. "I attribute that to the Lord speaking to me and saying this is what needs to be done. There will be devils and haters. But it's cool, because I don't have to deal with people I was dealing with in the past. My family is being solidified again. My professional career is getting ready to take off again. So everything is in my favor. I just got to close the deal."

    The beginning

    Consider that before becoming a highly-paid athlete, a three-time Pro Bowl receiver and a University of Southern California graduate-turned-urban-real-estate developer, Johnson was just another statistic raised in poverty in South Central Los Angeles. He was a hustler, a petty thief, and a looter in the LA riots. He hung with gangs, was homeless for part of his childhood and was the victim of a drive-by shooting.

    As he says: "I usually get things done. I really haven't failed at a lot of things in my life."

    Check that, his agent and friend Jerome Stanley said.

    "He is a success. Period," Stanley said. "He probably shouldn't even be [alive] . A lot of things Keyshawn had to learn on his own. He has raised himself since he was 16."

    Johnson is the youngest of six children born to a single mother, Vivian Jessie.

    He never knew his dad. Two of his brothers were members of the notorious Bloods gang. His sisters also lived on the streets and were affiliated with gangs.

    Johnson never joined a gang, but hung around the Bloods because they were in his neighborhood.

    "I was affiliated with a gang but not in a gang," Johnson said. "I did some of the things they did; maybe not some of the things they did overboard. But I dealt with Crips and Bloods. All of us played sports. It was about survival."

    Johnson's survival experience included dealing in stolen goods, which resulted in two stints in youth detention camps. And there was the time when he was 11 when he and his mom were virtually homeless. One brother and two sisters were in "the pen," and the others were "on the streets getting their grind on."

    Johnson spent his nights sleeping in the back seat of his mom's car and his days getting his first introduction to football at USC. Johnson roamed the practice field as a ball boy for the Trojans, befriending coach John Robinson, assistant Hudson Houck -- who later worked for the Cowboys -- and players including Ronnie Lott and Marcus Allen.

    It eventually led to his first money-making opportunity. Because Johnson was not allowed on the field on game days, the players and coaches gave him tickets -- which he scalped for money.

    By age 13, he was scalping tickets at every major sporting event, including a trip to the NBA Finals in Boston. If you want to know where Johnson honed his brash verbal skills that have him trailing a young Muhammad Ali but ranking alongside the likes of Michael Irvin, Shannon Sharpe, Deion Sanders and Charles Barkley, look no further than the streets and his ticket-scalping days as a youth.

    But opportunity existed alongside danger. Johnson was once shot in the leg by an unknown assailant while walking in his neighborhood.

    "You can describe it how you want to," he said. "Poverty was so bad. It was the streets. I did what I could to support my mama in that situation. It was weird. I was stealing at night and hanging out with college boys during the day.

    "I thought I had it good. But it was one of those things when you went back home to the car at night and thought this was bull. I knew there was a better way."

    Talk is not cheap

    Today, Johnson has few links to his tough upbringing. He has no tattoos, doesn't wear gaudy jewelry, save a two-carat diamond stud in his left ear, and shuns the gangster appeal of today's hip-hop culture.

    "What defines me is where I am today. The fact that my mother can raise six kids by herself, that her son can graduate from college and go on and be a megastar in the NFL, that defines my character, not growing up in a tough environment. It may have shaped my mental capacity to how I deal with people, but it doesn't define me."

    Let the chatty Johnson talk and he will redefine himself 50 different ways.

    Johnson said he never intended to be just one thing, and refuses to consider himself just an athlete or just a football player.

    "People ask me all the time if I am an athlete," Johnson said. "No, I am not an athlete. I am an educated young man who happens to be a real-estate developer who happens to play professional sports."

    He is most proud of the fact that he got his history degree from USC before he was picked No. 1 overall by the New York Jets in the 1996 NFL Draft. He says it was important because of his supposedly suspect academic background, bouncing between several high schools and finally landing at Los Angeles Dorsey as a senior. Before he went to USC, he spent two years at West Los Angeles College because he didn't score high enough on the SAT for an athletic scholarship.

    And Johnson hasn't forgotten where he came from. He is involved in several charity endeavors through Keyshawn, Inc., which includes outreach and scholarship programs for underprivileged children.

    On the business side, he was a developer of the $50 million Chesterfield Square shopping center in the heart of South Central Los Angeles. It was the first major development in that part of the city in more than a decade, and includes anchor stores Home Depot and Food4Less grocer.

    The irony of him developing a site that was near the center of the South Central riots in 1992, during which he was one of the looters, was not lost on Johnson.

    "I was young and didn't know any better," Johnson said. "What do you want me to do? We were just trying to outfit our crib."

    Now Johnson is trying to outfit under-served communities with services typically only seen in the suburbs. He is part of a $140 million redevelopment project in the Crenshaw district of Los Angeles, and hopes to do the same in South Dallas, Oak Cliff and/or Pleasant Grove.

    "I have created over 3,000 jobs since I have been doing this," Johnson said. "Now, I have not given 3,000 jobs, but I have created a way so they can get them in pre-construction, post-construction, store working, computer technology and research. Now, I have benefited financially. It's not all about charity. But I can invest anywhere. I would rather do it here. We like Home Depots too. We like Barnes and Nobles too. The problem is there are none in those communities."

    Said Shikiri: "Keyshawn is passionate about everything he does. He is passionate about his family. He is passionate about football. And he is passionate about his business. He will study it and commit himself fully to it."

    Playing the game

    Football has always been the easy part. It's what got him out of South Central alive and opened the doors for his business endeavors.

    At 6-foot-4, 212 pounds, Johnson earned junior college All-America honors at West Los Angeles College before becoming a two-time All-American at USC, setting a school record with 102 catches as a senior.

    Once he joined the Jets, Johnson was an immediate hit in New York on and off the field. The title of his controversial, no-holds-barred book, Just Give Me the Damn Ball!, which chronicled his rookie season, became his personal slogan.

    Parcells, who became the Jets' coach in 1997, did just that. Johnson had 83 catches for 1,131 yards and a career-best 10 touchdowns in 1998 as the Jets reached the AFC title game. Johnson followed that effort with 89 catches for a then-career-high 1,170 yards and eight touchdowns in 1999.

    In response to his exorbitant contract demands, and following Parcells' departure as head coach, Johnson was traded to the Buccaneers in 2000.

    Johnson's stellar play continued in Tampa Bay. In 2001, he was named to his third Pro Bowl and was the team MVP after a career-best 106 receptions for 1,266 yards.

    The next season, Johnson lived out his childhood dream by helping the Buccaneers to a Super Bowl title -- though it would prove to be his last bit of happiness in Tampa Bay.

    An already bad relationship with Gruden got worse in 2003.

    "I tried to work with him," Johnson said. "I gave him everything I could give him. It came down to he didn't like me and I didn't like him."

    Labeling him a disruptive force in the locker room and a distraction after a 4-6 start, the Buccaneers decided to deactivate Johnson for the final six games of the 2003 season. They said he missed meetings, team functions and even accused him of wearing flip-flops to practice.

    Johnson doesn't deny the latter.

    "Why did I wear flip-flops to practice? Because practice was five minutes and it was a walk-through," Johnson said.

    Will he wear flip-flops in Dallas?

    "I don't know. Probably on a Saturday walk-through. But if it was a problem, Bill would let me know. He wouldn't wait nine weeks and tell the media in his 'Bash Keyshawn' press conference. Tell me what you want; define and make it clear."

    Gruden no longer discusses Johnson, but those around Johnson remain consumed with the man they believe tried to ruin his career.

    "It was punitive," Stanley said. "Firing him didn't help the boss. It was an 'I-will-show-you,' 'master' type of situation; 'I am going to put you in your place.' He continued to try to hurt him afterward, bad-mouthing him to every team that asked about him. He tried to harm him. He tried to belittle him. He tried to marginalize him. That was his retribution."

    Whatever problem Gruden had with Johnson doesn't matter to Parcells.

    "I like him," Parcells said. "He's a very unselfish player when it comes to the jobs he'll do. He'll do whatever you want him to do. If it's helping us win, he doesn't mind doing it. I know that. That's what made him attractive to me.

    "I think he's a good kid. He doesn't have any personal problems. He's solid. He chirps around a little while, but that's OK. I don't mind that. If you do the jobs that he'll do, then you can chirp a little."

    Offensive coordinator Maurice Carthon said Johnson's size and toughness will pay dividends in the passing game and running game. He's considered the best blocking receiver in the game. Consider that of Johnson's 603 career receptions, 411 have come on third down.

    According to Johnson, he will make whoever plays quarterback for the Cowboys a better player -- whether it's Quincy Carter or Vinny Testaverde.

    "I get it done," Johnson said. "I always have. I've caught passes from 10 different quarterbacks in my eight years. I still have great numbers. Badly thrown balls are routine catches for me. That's what's going to make them that much better."

    It's not all about what Johnson can do for the Cowboys. It's about what the Cowboys can do for him.

    And that's getting his family and game back on track.

    Shikiri said the time away was good and bad for Johnson.

    "His missed it," Shikiri said "He missed it terribly and it humbled him. It resulted in us coming here, and that's good. This is a place were we can live and grow again."

    Keyshawn Johnson's career statistics

    Receiving


    Year Team G GS No. Yds. Avg. Lg. TD
    1996 NY Jets 14 11 63 844 13.4 50 8
    1997 NY Jets 16 16 70 963 13.8 39 5
    1998 NY Jets 16 16 83 1,131 13.6 41 10
    1999 NY Jets 16 16 89 1,170 13.1 65 8
    2000 Tampa Bay 16 16 71 874 12.3 38 8
    2001 Tampa Bay 15 15 106 1,266 11.9 47 1
    2002 Tampa Bay 16 16 76 1,088 14.3 76 5
    2003 Tampa Bay 10 10 45 600 13.3 39 3
    Totals 119 116 603 7,936 13.2 76 48

    Keyshawn Johnson's road to Dallas

    2003

    Oct. 22: In the week before a Cowboys-Buccaneers game, Keyshawn Johnson tells the media Bill Parcells is his favorite coach: "He's the best coach I ever had, period." Four days later, he's booed during pregame warmups but catches a 7-yard TD pass in the Bucs' 16-0 win.

    Nov. 18: Bucs deactivate Johnson

    Nov. 23: Johnson becomes a guest NFL analyst for the FOX NFL pregame show.

    2004

    Jan. 16: Johnson is ordered to stay away from a California man who is dating his ex-wife. On Feb. 6, Alameda County (Calif.) Superior Court Judge Julie Conger grants a restraining order valid for three years.

    Jan. 21: Johnson is robbed at gunpoint in Berkeley, Calif., by two men who take his money and jewelry.

    Feb. 12: Bucs general manager Bruce Allen says it's "highly, highly, highly, highly, highly unlikely" Johnson will return to Tampa Bay.

    Feb. 18-24: Cowboys meet with several teams at the NFL Combine, including Tampa Bay, that are interested in trading for wide receiver Joey Galloway.

    Feb. 24: Cowboys give Bucs OK to talk to Galloway about a trade.

    Feb. 27: Tampa Bay general manager Bruce Allen confirms interest in a Galloway-Johnson trade.

    Feb. 27-28: Johnson flies to Dallas, visits with owner Jerry Jones.

    March 2: Cowboys and Johnson agree to a restructured, incentive-laden contract that would pay $20 million over the next four years.

    March 4: Johnson returns to Dallas to search for a house.

    March 19: Galloway signs one-year, $2.6 million contract with Tampa Bay, which consummates the receiver-to-receiver trade that brings Johnson to Dallas.

    March 22: Johnson meets with media in a news conference at Valley Ranch and begins off-season workouts with the Cowboys.

    June 5: Johnson participates in the Cowboys' minicamp.


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    ONLINE: www.dallascowboys.com
    Clarence E. Hill Jr., (817) 390-7760 omegahill@earthlink.net
  2. Hostile

    Hostile Tacos are a good investment Zone Supporter

    118,724 Messages
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    Long article but worth the read. I hope he can walk the walk. The talking part is done.
  3. BrAinPaiNt

    BrAinPaiNt Brotherhood of the Beard Staff Member

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    Very good read.
  4. maloy

    maloy Drama King

    195 Messages
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    best article in the last 6 months
  5. da_boyz_mk

    da_boyz_mk How 'Bout Dem Cowboys

    2,125 Messages
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    i can't wait to see him making big 3rd down catches and firing everyone up.
  6. Lord Sun

    Lord Sun New Member

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    You only wish, Hos!

    Ha.

    Key. Done talking.

    As if.

    Ha.
  7. BrownSugar

    BrownSugar One Classy Lady

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    Good article, so he and Shikiri got back together...there was a pic of him, Shikiri, and their kids in an issue of JET magazine last month...looks like they were celebrating her birthday.
  8. TheHustler

    TheHustler Active Member

    5,390 Messages
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    exactly. two thirds of his career catches have been on third down. that's amazing.
  9. LaTunaNostra

    LaTunaNostra He Made the Difference

    14,986 Messages
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    Oops, A repost? [IMG]

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