When Shawn Jefferson became an offensive assistant with the Detroit Lions in 2006, he had no idea how his life would change the next year.
Now, 14 years later, the Cardinals’ new receivers coach has a player in his group – DeAndre Hopkins – who he compares favorably to a first-ballot Hall of Famer. And he believes it’s all part of the plan.
In 2007, the Lions selected wide receiver Calvin Johnson with the second overall pick in the draft. Jefferson was promoted to assistant receivers coach that year and became the receivers coach in 2008. He was in Detroit through 2012, so Jefferson was there for the first six seasons of Johnson’s nine-year career.
Jefferson said Tuesday “it was a challenge” coaching Johnson. And why was that?
“With a guy with that kind of skill set, every day coming out to practice, you got to find a way to challenge him,” Jefferson said. “And it was just a joy to watch how this kid worked, to watch how he handled himself on and off the field. His dedication to his craft. So it was a blessing for me to coach him.
“He came in the first day and said he wants to be great and everything about his actions after that showed that he wants to be great and I'm not surprised that he found his way into the Hall of Fame.”
Johnson is one of three first-time eligibles announced recently as members of the 2021 Hall of Fame class to be enshrined in Canton in August.
As for Hopkins, Jefferson put him squarely in Johnson’s class.
“DeAndre is a phenomenal talent,” Jefferson said. “Right now, to be honest with you, he's probably the only one in the league that I can compare to Calvin Johnson that has the kind of skill set that Calvin had. Playing above the rim and in those competitive situations where you come down with balls.”
A man of faith, Jefferson believes every step of the way prepared him for what came next.
He said, “I think the good Lord carries us and sometimes takes us to places to prepare for the job at hand. I think me coaching Calvin when I first got into the league for all those numbers of years kind of helped me bridge the gap along with DeAndre Hopkins. He's a generational talent and I'm looking forward to working with him.”