Stevie Johnson was expected to fly to California for his mother's funeral. (David Dermer/Getty Images)
Not long after he and the Bills arrived in Jacksonville on Saturday, Bills receiver Stevie Johnson received a phone call informing him that his mother, Rhonda Lewis, died unexpectedly in her northern California home earlier in the day at the age of 48.
Johnson informed head coach Doug Marrone of the news, and after the two spoke, Johnson decided to stay in Jacksonville and play on Sunday.
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“When I found out I was already here,” Johnson said to the Bills' official website following Buffalo’s 27-20 win over the Jaguars. “I talked to coach and he gave me an option, and I felt like I went all week with the boys and whatever I can do to help out the team, I think I should give it my all no matter what. It was tough, but we got the win and I’m happy about that and I’m sure she is happy about that.”
Johnson, who only had one catch for four yards but still leads the team with 597 receiving yards and three touchdowns this season, didn't tell his teammates about the news until after the game.
He said it was hard to concentrate at times.
"It says a lot about Stevie that he decided to play," said rookie quarterback EJ Manuel. "We all look up to Stevie, especially us rookies on offense. He makes a lot of huge plays for us. He's a difference-maker on offense. It was a matter of him not wanting to be a distraction to the team or for anybody to feel bad for him. He just wanted us to go out there and get a win."JENKINS: Peyton Manning named SI's Sportsman of the Year