He helped change the NFL with one hand. And now the Hall of Fame wide receiver is making major inroads into the medical cannabis space. Calvin Johnson aka Megatron joined “Renaissance Man” to dish on Atlanta strip clubs, NIL (Name Image and Likeness) and which linebacker’s hits he can still feel in his bones.
But first, if he had been able to join another team during his career, where would he have gone?
“Any team with a great quarterback,” he told me. “At the time, I saw Aaron Rodgers so much … and I love the history behind Lambeau and just really just playing in the North Division. You know, I love everything about it, the toughness … Aaron Rodgers was probably at the top of my list at the time. Obviously Brady, but I didn’t have an opportunity to.”
He stuck with the Lions and yes, his much-disputed one-handed catch led to a rule change in 2018. He is now a Detroiter, but Calvin is a true product of the Georgia Bible Belt. He grew up with an educator mother and a father who worked for the railroad. He was required to maintain good grades in order to compete and his grandfather is a preacher. He grew up on gospel music.
But he isn’t afraid to talk about Atlanta’s best feature: the strip clubs.
“I’ve been to every single one there is in Atlanta. I haven’t been to a strip club for a while though. But yeah, back when I was playing, when I was a little younger, I was in the Onyx, the Magic City … Platinum 21 before the name change. Cheetah every now and then because they had good food.”
And you know there ain’t no shame in adult entertainment. Especially if you are living in the capital of jiggle joints. Speaking of dancing, Calvin competed on “Dancing With the Stars” in 2016 and it led to a few revelations. First: Dancing isn’t easy.
“If you ask me to do it again, I’ll probably say no because I didn’t know how much work went into it. But like I told you earlier, whatever I’m gonna do, I’m gonna work my tail off of doing it … I was going to quit the show because my ankles were so bad,” he said.
His buddy brought some topical cannabis cream and he felt the difference right away. It led to a second calling for him.
“That’s kind of a turning point for me when I really wanted to learn more, a lot more about cannabis, when I can use it in that different application.”
He teamed with former Lion Rob Sims to start Primitiv, a Michigan-based company that highlights the healing powers of the plant — something that was considered taboo in sports. He and Sims are working with Harvard to study the effects of medical marijuana.
“Our focus in these areas are pain, mental, cognitive issues. When you talk about cannabis or mental issues, both are those are stigmafied,” he said, adding they are interested in the new application, not necessarily recreational use. He talked about the advancements scientists are exploring, including using drones and nanotechnology to effectively target areas for treatment. “You hear about it from somebody’s real medical use where an elderly cancer patient with Stage 2 or 3 cancer, they’re in remission now because they’re using [it]. Or you hear of the story of someone with epilepsy or seizures where they used to have 36 seizures a day. Now they might have one because of the cannabis they’re using. And these are real stories that I have that I’ve been privileged to be a part of.”
The medicinal variety would have been handy during his playing days. The 6-foot-5 receiver has been candid about his injuries. I asked who hit him the hardest?
“I’m running a little crossing pattern 5 yards deep, and it’s the hardest I ever been hit in my life. I knew he was going to be there, but I didn’t expect a hit like this … So I remember the hit through and through. I feel it in my body right now.”
It hurt so bad the name escaped him. But I didn’t forget … not when it comes to my Lions. It was Washington’s London Fletcher. (Take a bow, London.)
We spoke about NIL, which is changing the college game and allowing players to finally profit off their personal brand. He said it’s a positive policy that can help players, especially the ones not going pro, to bring money to their family and change their stations in life.
But it can have major drawbacks that could be felt in the locker room.
“It’s a good thing as long as it’s done right, because I hate to see in college, the haves and the have nots … Maybe you have one guy that can have this huge deal, but he’s the only guy on the team. That can create a cancerous environment. I feel like those deals are really just between the player and whatever company … So, that’s just the way it is. I wish there was a better way for all the players to help each other out … [and to not] create a great rift in your system.”
But that’s Megatron: Always seeing the big picture. Detroit is lucky to have him.
Detroit native Jalen Rose is a member of the University of Michigan’s iconoclastic Fab Five, who shook up the college hoops world in the early ’90s. He played 13 seasons in the NBA, before transitioning into a media personality. Rose is currently an analyst for “NBA Countdown” and “Get Up,” and co-host of “Jalen & Jacoby.” He executive produced “The Fab Five” for ESPN’s “30 for 30” series, is the author of the best-selling book, “Got To Give the People What They Want,” a fashion tastemaker, and co-founded the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy, a public charter school in his hometown.