In the NFL Draft on Saturday, the Arizona Cardinals drafted a wide receiver named Keesean Johnson, out of Fresno State, with the first pick in the sixth round.
Ranked by ESPN as the 23rd-best wide receiver in the draft, Johnson was one of three wide receivers chosen by Arizona in the draft, to catch passes from new quarterback Kyler Murray, who they picked with the top overall pick on Thursday night.
However, the first thought after the pick by many football fans was to ask whether Johnson is related to an NFL player of the past who had the same name and plays the same position.
Keesean Johnson is not related to Keyshawn Johnson, a wide receiver who played 11 years in the NFL and later worked as a studio analyst for ESPN and Fox. According to a tweet by Dane Brugler, a draft analyst with The Athletic, Keesean Johnson was born in 1996, a few months after Keyshawn Johnson was drafted by the New York Jets, “which is partly how he got his name.”
In addition to the names, per a 2017 tweet by Alabama beat reporter Alex Byington, the confusion was partly enabled by Nick Saban, the head coach at Alabama, once mistakenly stating that Keesean is Keyshawn’s son. Keyshawn Johnson does indeed have a son named Keyshawn Johnson, Jr., who played wide receiver at Nebraska, per ESPN, but he’s not the player who was picked by Arizona.
Among other differences between the two Johnsons are that Keyshawn stood 6-foot-4, while Keesean is 6-foot-1, and Keyshawn was picked with the first pick in the first round in 1996, while Keesean lasted until the 6th round.
Keeshawn, according to ESPN, “tested poorly at the combine but had a much better workout at his pro day. He lines up out wide and in the slot. He’s a smooth route runner with adequate burst.”
Known for his outspoken nature, Keyshawn Johnson played his college ball at USC and was the top overall pick by the New York Jets. Almost certainly the first player in NFL history to publish an autobiography after his rookie season, titled Just Give Me The Damned Ball, Johnson was traded in 2000 to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, with whom he won the Super Bowl after the 2002 season.
After he was de-activated by Tampa Bay for the last seven games of the 2003 season, a maneuver which soon became known as “getting Keyshawned,” Johnson signed with the Dallas Cowboys, and then finished his career with the Carolina Panthers in 2006. Keyshawn Johnson is the only player in NFL history to score touchdowns on Monday Night Football for four different teams, per his Athlete Speakers page.
There was another NFL player named Keshon Johnson, although he was no relation to any of the other Johnsons, and he also played cornerback briefly in the mid-1990s.