HOUSTON -- Honored at a gala for the Houston Area Women's Center, Andre Johnson was days away from the start of the next chapter of his NFL career.
And he couldn't wait.
"I’m excited about it," Johnson said. "I’ll actually be heading to Indy tomorrow. I’m excited about the opportunity. Can’t wait to get it going. It’ll be different, but at the same time, still football. I’ll go in, just learn what I need to learn, learn my new teammates and try to fit in and help win games."
Johnson spent the first 12 seasons of his career with the Houston Texans, as the second first-round pick in franchise history. During his tenure he became the franchise's leading receiver and one of the best receivers in NFL history. He knew, even as he went through last season, that his future with the Texans was tenuous. For one thing, he was scheduled to account for $16.1 million of the Texans' salary cap next season.
For another, the Texans coaching staff believed his ability had declined. They offered him a more limited role in this year's offense. Rather than accept that, Johnson eventually asked for his release. In turn, he signed with the Indianapolis Colts, the Texans' biggest rival and divisional nemesis.
"Everybody thinks I went to the Colts to try to get back at the Texans, and stuff like that," Johnson said. "That had nothing to do with it. I just went to the best place where I felt that was the best fit for me where I can have the best chance to win a championship. It wasn’t about circling dates or nothing against the Texans. I had 12 great years here."
Johnson was active in the Houston community during his time with the Texans, and has remained so even after departing the franchise. Though he spent most of the offseason working out in Miami, where he was raised, Johnson often refers to Houston as his home.
Johnson skipped last year's offseason program, hoping to get assurances about his future with the Texans. He received public and private declarations that the Texans wanted him to retire with the franchise and returned for training camp.
But he's with Indianapolis instead, and will be there for a program that begins Monday.
"It’ll be different," he said. "But at the same time it’s a new opportunity and I’m going to take full advantage of it."