Editor’s note: A few weeks ago, the Bengals accidentally leaked what very much looked like the start of a Ring of Honor. After 50+ years since their inception and 40 years since their first Super Bowl run, it’s about time the club honors its greatest and most influential people.
In this series, we will highlight players we feel are either well deserving of a spot, or will be worthy very soon. The list has grown fairly sizable with how long Cincinnati has hosted the Cincinnati Bengals, and they have plenty to catch up on with the potential installation.
Today, we look at one of the players who may be responsible for the biggest fan growth for the team in recent eras.
Chad Johnson, aka OchoCinco (No. 85)
- Height: 6-1
- Weight: 192
- Position: Wide receiver
- Bengals Career: 2001-2010
- Drafted: 2nd Round, 36th Pick (2001)
Odds are if you were a football fan during the 2000’s you came across one of Johnson’s many highlight plays, antics or, most notably, his many celebrations.
His celebrations were practically synonymous with the NFL at this time, which not everyone viewed as a good thing. Many fans of the NFL and even Bengals’ took exception to Johnson’s behavior. That made him one of the best examples of a player you either loved or hated. One of the reasons his celebrations kept coming up as reason for debate was because of how frequently he would be pulling them out, because he also was one of the best receivers of his era.
Over Johnson’s 10 years with the franchise, he scored 66 touchdowns. A record that still stands with A.J. Green sitting at 65 following the 2020 season. Johnson still holds many of Cincinnati’s receiving records, but more importantly, he kept up with the other receivers during his era. He led the league in receiving in 2006. He also led the AFC in receiving from 2003 to 2006 and was only second to Reggie Wayne in 2007 while recording just over 1,400 receiving yards that season.
Johnson’s career was filled with “WOW” moments where he would contort his body in a way you just don’t see everyday to make incredible grabs. He made those plays look routine. He also had some of the best feet in the league, which led him to making even some of the best cornerbacks of that era look absolutely silly trying to guard him.
The fact he still holds the record for yards (10,783), touchdowns (66) and receptions (751) should say everything needed for Johnson’s spot in the Ring of Honor. However, his celebrations and off-field antics work a bit against him during discussions like this. Whenever you bring him up, no one wants to talk about how great of a player he is. It always becomes whether he was selfish or a prima donna.
The easy counter argument is Johnson was making the best of his situation. When he was drafted, Cincinnati was viewed as one of the laughing stocks of the league. He made them a team that would get attention on shows like SportsCenter, which was a much bigger deal back before today’s social media era. He also viewed football for what it was: Entertainment. He always wanted to make sure fans got their moneys worth each and every Sunday, he even said that word for word.
Ring of Honor Resume
- Six-time Pro Bowler (T-2nd in franchise history)
- Two-time First-Team All-Pro
- 766 receptions (34th in NFL history)
- 11,059 receiving yards (36th in NFL history)
- 67 receiving touchdowns (T-51st in NFL history)
- 66.6 yards per game (T-42nd in NFL history)
- 260 receiving yards in a single game (T-19th most in NFL history)
- Three consecutive 100-yard receiving games (T-2nd in franchise history) (2x - 2002, 2006)
- 751 receptions
- 10,783 yards
- 66 touchdowns
- Most receiving yards in a single season (1,440)
- Holds four of the franchises top five seasons for receiving yards (1,440, 1,432, 1,369, 1,355)
- Single game record for receiving yards (260)
On top of everything else, Johnson helped catch the eye of many young impressionable fans. Outside of living in the area and the Bengals uniforms looking cool, Johnson may be one of the most common reason’s fans give as a reason for becoming a fan of the Bengals. His ambassadorship still persists to this day! That has to be worth something for a team that spent a whole decade in the cellar of the sports world.