The greatest player in Houston Texans' history will be playing for a division rival this year, as wide receiver Andre Johnson asked for and was granted his release after twelve seasons in Houston and after being told that his role would decrease in 2015. He was released, and the Indianapolis Colts jumped to the top of his list.
In a terrific profile on the receiver by the Indianapolis Star's Zak Keefer, Johnson recalled watching the Colts fall behind 38-10 to the Chiefs in the divisional round of the playoffs and changing the channel, only to flip it back and see Andrew Luck scoop up the football and dive into the end zone, leading the Colts to a stunning 45-44 victory at Lucas Oil Stadium.
The Colts had the quarterback, and that put the team at the top of Johnson's free agent wish list. After he was released, longtime friend Frank Gore, himself a free agent after spending ten seasons with the 49ers, called him and asked where he was going. They agreed that, if they wanted to win a Super Bowl, they should go to Indianapolis and play with Luck.
So here they are, and for Johnson, it's rejuvenating. As Keefer writes, he has the love of the game again - something he didn't have during his final few years with the Texans. "Everyone saw the frustration the last few years," Johnson told Keefer. "Not only in me, but in my play on the field." The lack of winning, the lack of a quarterback, and a diminished role with a new coaching staff led to one outcome - a departure from the only NFL franchise that he had known.
Instead, he'll be playing in 2015 in Indianapolis, and he's found a whole new passion for the game that hadn't been there recently.
"The last few years in Houston, his voice would just be so dry, so quiet," Johnson's mother, Karen Johnson, told Keefer. "Now he's so upbeat. He's always smiling. You can just feel the excitement."
Not only has he found a new energy for football, he's also found a team that is serious about not just making the playoffs but about winning it all. Itdidn't take Johnson long to notice things were different, as after his first workout with the team, he told Keefer, he texted his uncle and said, "I see why they win. I see why they win."
They've been winning consistently for the past decade and a half, many such wins coming at the expense of Johnson's Texans. Now, however, he's not just getting the chance to see why they win, he's getting the chance to be a part of it. Johnson has been rejuvenated by coming to Indy, and the hope is that the Colts' offense will get a similar boost - one that could propel them past the final hurdle and into the Super Bowl.