ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- They were surprised. Some were shocked. TJ Jones, well, he refused to believe Calvin Johnson would actually be on "Dancing With the Stars" until he actually sees him in a commercial or on the show.
This was the reaction from Johnson’s former teammates Tuesday, hours after it was announced on "Good Morning America" that the retired Detroit Lions receiver was going to be on the reality dancing show’s 23rd season with Ryan Lochte, Vanilla Ice, Maureen McCormick and others.
"To me, he’s not much of a dancer at all,” Jones said. “I’ve never seen him moving his shoulders, so for me, it’s like, 'I’ll believe it when I see it.'"
Jones, the Lions and the rest of the country will start to see it on Sept. 12, when the season debuts on ABC. But for Johnson, well, this seems like a departure from who he was in the NFL. He was a somewhat shy superstar. He always appeared reserved. Quiet.
But in retirement, he seems to have a bit more time to try other things.
"I don't blame him," Jones said. "Look, he's not playing anymore. Doesn't have camp. Doesn't have a season. You want to stay active, be competitive. Why not? It's something that's going to be physically just as challenging in some respects as being at practice and mentally it's going to be challenging just like learning a playbook.
"So for him, I completely understand the move if he's doing it."
While some Lions said Johnson is a stiff dancer, Jim Caldwell disagreed. Although the Lions head coach did offer the caveat that he hasn't been out with Johnson, so his experience with him is during practice -- when Johnson didn't dance -- and at Johnson's wedding.
"Yeah, it's interesting. Well, let me put it this way. We have some experience with guys that are on the team that have done it," Caldwell said. "Obviously Calvin's retired now but Jacoby Jones did it when we were at Baltimore. The difference is we played music during the course of practice all the time in Baltimore and Jacoby would dance quite often and he was pretty good at it as well.
"Calvin, on the other hand, I did see him dance and he was rather smooth at the wedding. He and Brittney were dancing out on the dance floor. So I think he'll be able to hold his own. He's been very, very good at everything else he's done. I think he might surprise everybody."
Johnson's teammates had rarely, if ever, seen him dance. Golden Tate said he saw him dance at Johnson's wedding this summer with his mother, Dr. Arica Johnson, and that he was "stiff." Other teammates couldn’t recall ever seeing him show off moves.
They’ll be watching, though. Tate plans on setting it to series record and texting him after each of his performances. Jones was a fan of the show anyway, so now he can say he also knows one of the contestants.
Johnson's siblings, in an E:60 video with Lisa Salters, criticized his rhythm -- or lack of it.
Even his touchdown celebrations, where players will often dance, had no dancing element to them. He either celebrated with his teammates or had some sort of slam dunk befitting his 6-foot-5, 231-pound frame.
So dancing? This is something new.
“He’s stepping outside his comfort zone and that’s something I like,” Tate said. “We’re going to see. I know him on a more personal level because I played with him for two years and we’ve become buddies. I’ve seen that goofy, fun side of him and I hope the world can see that because I think sometimes people just see Calvin as Megatron and this elite athlete and that’s it.
“I think he has a phenomenal personality, is very, very intelligent and hopefully, people will see that.”
Still, it did come as a surprise.
“Interesting,” said quarterback Matthew Stafford, one of the guests at Johnson’s wedding. “I would have never guessed.”