One of the NFL’s most productive and flamboyant receivers of the past decade, Chad Johnson has a knack for standing out from the crowd. The architect behind some of football’s most memorable touchdown celebrations over the years, the man who once legally changed his last name to “Ochocinco” has unsurprisingly become one of the most followed athletes on Twitter thanks to his unfiltered tweets and unmatched ability to engage with fans. We caught up with the 36-year-old during his first CFL season in Montreal to learn more about the Als’ marquee wideout.
You’ve now been in our city for a little while now. Other than McDonalds, Starbucks, and cigar lounges, what do you like most about Montreal?
CHAD JOHNSON: There are so many cool places here. I go to the House of Jazz all the time. I love the French toast that they serve at L’Avenue on Mount-Royal. They won’t give me the recipe, so I have to keep going back. I like Burger Bar on Crescent. I love the food at Les 3 Brasseurs. I go to bed at 9:30 every night so I do the same routine over and over. When I was in Cincinnati, New England and Miami, I did the same things all the time: jazz, cigars, Starbucks and a couple of restaurants.
We saw you at the Bell Centre for a playoff game this spring. How big of a hockey fan are you?
CJ: I go see the Florida Panthers all the time when I’m in Miami. From what I’ve heard, there’s a bit of a difference in Montreal. (laughs)
|Chad really enjoyed his playoff experience at the Bell Centre last spring. |
You’ve played in some huge stadiums in front of wild fans during your time in the NFL. How does the atmosphere at the Bell Centre compare?
CJ: The atmosphere reminded me of being at a soccer game in Europe. Even though the Bell Centre is much smaller, the energy was unreal. Maybe it was because it was a playoff game. I don’t know if it’s like that all the time, but it was amazing to see.
Have you had the chance to meet any Canadiens players?
CJ: I became friends with P.K. Subban. I recently invited him to go for breakfast, but after seeing the contract he got, he’ll be the one paying! (laughs) I haven’t had a chance to meet other players because I’ve been focused on football since I’ve been in town.
We’ve seen what you can do on a football field, a soccer pitch, a dance floor and even on a bull, but how would you fare on the ice?
CJ: I could probably roller skate really well. I don’t know how that equates to skating on ice because I’ve never been on the ice in my life.
You were part of a generation of wide receivers with larger-than-life personalities – you, Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, Keyshawn Johnson. Do you think we’ll ever see another golden age of wideouts like the one from the early 2000s?
CJ: No, because everything has shifted. It seems like the defensive backs have taken over the spotlight of entertainment. If you pay attention to today’s NFL, the defensive backs are very boisterous, very loud. In my 11 years in the league, there weren’t any DBs who talked like Patrick Peterson and Richard Sherman. Now they do and the receivers are quiet. It’s cool, but I wish they were around when I was playing. It would have been fun.
You’re back in pro football this year after being out of it for the past two seasons. What did you learn during your time away from the spotlight?
CJ: I can’t even put in words what I’ve learned. It’s been one huge lesson. I think that if it didn’t happen, I wouldn’t have learned anything. It was a rough road, but it turned around for the better. Now I’m back enjoying life like always.
|Chad was well-known for his wacky touchdown celebrations throughout his NFL career. |
You’re one of the most active and entertaining athletes on Twitter and have been for a few years. When you first signed up, is that what you were expecting to come from your @ochocinco account?
CJ: Yes, because I’m interesting. I have a voice. I enjoy Twitter because it takes out the middle man, the media. The media controls everything, especially the perception of the individuals. They’re allowed to view you, but the media controls how the public views you. Now they can’t. If you want to know about me, what I’m saying, how I act or how I am, you just follow me on Twitter. I like it a lot.
How often have you had to apologize for something you tweeted?
CJ: Never, and I wouldn’t. That’s another thing about me: I never bite my tongue. I never have. I’m very, very savvy when it comes to the media and what I say. And the things I say, I’ve always been crazy. I’ve been crazy since Day 1 (laughs). I’m not fake; there’s no in-between. What you see is what you get and that’s how I’ve always been.
What’s the most outrageous request you’ve received on Twitter?
CJ: (laughs) I receive all types of crazy stuff. Nothing is really outrageous anymore.
Between us, how many of your Als teammates have asked for your autograph since you joined the team?
CJ: (laughs) A couple of them. That’s funny.
Three downs, bigger balls, “rouges” – what’s been the hardest thing to adapt to coming to the CFL?
CJ: I’ve got it down to a tee. I’m just enjoying playing football now. I’m learning along the way and I’m just trying to be the best Chad I can be to help the team.
Who’s the fiercest defensive player you’ve faced?
CJ: Sean Taylor, rest in peace. He was a safety, hitting like a linebacker and with the speed of a receiver. He was ridiculous, going sideline to sideline. He was unbelievable.
Which NFL players do you enjoy watching the most as a fan?
CJ: Everybody, honestly. I really like to watch the defensive backs because they’re so boisterous and outlandish now that they have to back it all up, and that’s not easy.
Follow Chad @ochocinco on Twitter, or head to montrealalouettes.com to keep tabs on the Als all season long.
This article, written by Hugo Fontaine, was published in CANADIENS magazine Vol. 28 No. 6.