Williams, whom the Lions selected No. 12 overall in the 2022 draft, wears No. 18 as a nod to Johnson’s No. 81 jersey. He said during rookie minicamp in May he hoped to someday meet Johnson.
“Eventually it will [happen] but I’m looking forward to it a lot. Gold jacket, somebody I look up to a lot,” Williams said. “It’s just going to be a blessing seeing somebody like that and hopefully he can give me some of the game and how things went for him here and I can just do some of the same things basically so I’m looking forward to it if it happens.”
Johnson, 36, has remained far removed from football since his retirement following the 2015 season. He told ESPN he has no itch to play again, and wasn’t even aware training camp was starting this week.
“I’ve got chronic swelling, so that ain’t going away. So, going out there, that ain’t gonna help that,” said a smiling Johnson, who was participating in the Rocket Mortgage Classic’s AREA 313 Celebrity Scramble on Tuesday.
While his relationship with the Lions organization remains tense after he was forced to repay $1.6 million of his signing bonus when he retired, Johnson has extended an offer to mentor Williams privately.
“There’s a lot of things that as a young receiver and just as a young NFL player period that you’ve got to learn. You’ve got to learn your way through,” Johnson, who has yet to connect with Williams, told ESPN. “I don’t mind being that person to help guys alleviate that learning curve, especially with him being drafted highly. So, it’s a lot of high expectations on him. I know what comes with that.”
Williams is currently on the non-football injury list as the Alabama product recovers from a torn left ACL.
Johnson’s advice for Williams on Tuesday was simple: Take care of your body.
Detroit has a plan in place to bring Williams along slowly, but Johnson has urged him to take the process seriously.
“Based off his injury, what I tell all the guys is to strengthen all the muscles around the joint that take the most impact,” Johnson said. “Make sure everything all around your leg, obviously the muscles around your knee, for him that’s got to be strong. But, moreso than anything, just learning how to be a pro and taking care of your body. He’s so young and you don’t see a lot of young guys in the training room, pre- and post-practice.
“A lot of guys think that’s for the guys that are injured and stuff like that, but those guys are there for you to get your body ready to go. Whether it’s rubbing out a knot that you might have before practice or helping you get a good stretch in, just being able to have availability within your time schedule to make those things a priority to taking care of your body because that’s your business. Your body’s your business. As much as making plays and stuff, that’s going to come, but you having good practices and all that stuff, that’s going to come but you’ve got to be out there. You’ve got to take care of your body and make that a priority.”