If you watched pro football during the 2000s, it was impossible to ignore Chad Johnson. Whether you thought the Cincinnati Bengals receiver was a legitimate entertainer or a bit of a clown, no one could argue with his on-field production. He pulled in 67 receiving touchdowns during his 11 seasons in the NFL, earning almost $50 million in salary along the way.
Despite that earning power, though, Chad Johnson had an unusual habit during his first two professional seasons. Rather than heading home, he was known to spend the night in the Bengals’ stadium.
Chad Johnson was a talented, if unique, NFL player
For better or worse, Chad Johnson always knew how to grab the headlines. If you can look past his touchdown celebrations, famous name change, and other antics, though, you’ll find that he was a pretty talented receiver, too.
Johnson’s football career, however, didn’t begin to great fanfare. After high school, he hit the gridiron at Santa Monica College; he did enough to earn a transfer to Oregon State, where he played one season with the Beavers. During that campaign, he showed enough to impress the Cincinnati Bengals and joined the team as the 36th-overall pick of the 2001 NFL draft.
After a quiet rookie season, Johnson burst onto the scene in a major way. From 2002 through 2007, he broke the 1,000-yard receiving mark every season; by the time the receiver retired, he had pulled in 766 catches for 11,059 yards and 67 touchdowns.
The receiver didn’t only garner attention for those stats, though. Johnson, along with Terrell Owens and Joe Horn, perfected the art of elaborate, choreographed touchdown celebrations. He also changed his name to Chad Ochocinco, invited fans to dinner on Twitter, and, even in retirement, still manages to make news with his social media activities.
Making more than $48 million in the NFL
In the NFL, most teams are willing to overlook some questionable behavior if the player is talented. Since Chad Johnson was always a capable receiver, he had no problem making plenty of money playing pro football.
Based on Spotrac’s numbers, Johnson earned just under $49 million in raw salary during his time in the league. As you’d assume, most of that money—roughly $43 million of it—came during his time with the Cincinnati Bengals; the remaining $5.75 million came during his one campaign in New England.
While Johnson received seven fines, totaling $115,000, during his time in the NFL, those punishments didn’t hurt his bottom line too badly. The receiver’s fortune is still estimated at $5 million, and he’s been known to share the wealth.
Chad Johnson slept in the Bengal’s stadium during his first two years as a pro
When you think of a professional athlete heading home, you probably imagine them pulling up to a mansion or a swanky apartment. During his first two years in the NFL, however, Chad Johnson preferred to spend his time elsewhere.
“First two years, I would stay at the stadium,” he told Graham Bensinger. While the receiver earned more than $1 million as a rookie and had a place of his own, football was all he knew.
“I was a little kid, you know, young,” Johnson continued. “[The stadium] was home. It was all I knew; all I knew at the time was football. My place, it was cool to be home, but then I was so engulfed in the game of football and wanting to just be great at my craft. I felt that this was the necessity to be just that.”
That, of course, raises the question: where did Johnson sleep? Thankfully for the receiver, modern NFL locker rooms are pretty comfortable.
“[I’d sleep] in the lounge room,” Johnson explained. “We had a lounge room. TV, video games, arcade machine, couches were plush. It was dope.”
It’s been said that getting a good night’s sleep is a key part of success. By sleeping in the stadium, Chad Johnson took that idea a bit more literally than most. Based on his track record, though, it certainly paid off for him.
Stats courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference