Originally posted on NESN.com  |  Last updated 11/5/12
Stevie Johnson's path to NFL stardom wasn't an easy one, but he may be better for it. Johnson grew up in one of the most dangerous sections of San Francisco -- Hunters Point. He told Tim Graham of the Buffalo News that as the rest of his football and basketball teammates growing up were joining gangs and committing crimes, he was committing himself to his craft as an athlete. It took his stepfather's sudden rap success to move the family to Fairfield, Calif. -- a safer suburb 35 miles away from the city. Andre "Herm" Lewis met Johnson's mother when the wide receiver was two after Lewis got out of prison for a drug sentence. Lewis cleaned up his act and started producing rap records for artists like Master P and JT the Big Fella. When Johnson got to his new town, his high school was without a football team. Angelo Rodriguez High School didn't start a varsity football program until the Bills' wide receiver was already a junior. As most newer or weaker football squads do, the Mustangs forced their best athlete -- Johnson -- to play quarterback. Because of his lack of high school experience, and being forced to play out of position, Johnson had to go to Chabot College for two years before transferring to Kentucky. Johnson was a backup during his first year with the Wildcats, but flourished in a starting role as a senior -- grabbing 61 receptions for 1,052 yards and 13 touchdowns. Despite Johnson's stellar senior season, he was drafted in just the seventh round by Buffalo in 2008. Johnson was a late bloomer to the NFL as well. After catching just 12 passes for for 112 yards and two touchdowns in his first two years in the NFL, Johnson became the first Bills' receiver in team history to record back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. Johnson also took the league by storm with his famous touchdown celebrations. He's mocked Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco -- who referred to themselves as Batman and Robin at the time -- by wearing and showing off a shirt under his jersey that said "Why So Serious?" He also mocked Plaxico Burress by miming shooting himself in the leg after a score. Johnson is now using that creativity -- and his step-father as an influence -- by starting his own rap careeer. Johnson goes by SJ13 and released a mixtape, titled, of course, Why So Serious. Johnson is a self described "weirdo." He was unlike the rest of the kids in his crime-ridden San Francisco neighborhood and now he's setting himself apart from the rest of the NFL as well. "Football player, football player, football player … weirdo,” Johnson said. "I don’t know anyone else in the league with a dermal anchor in their face." Johnson has signed some interesting endorsement deals for an NFL player because of his eccentricities. He's the first NFL player signed by Skullcandy -- a headphone company -- he's also endorsed by VIZIO televisions, Pant Saggin Dezign apparel, Deuce watches and Northtown Auto. Johnson and the Bills will be coming to Foxboro on Sunday to take on the Patriots. In six games against New England, Johnson has 23 receptions for 296 yards and three touchdowns. He's coming into this weeks' game with 35 receptions for 416 yards and four touchdowns.

This article first appeared on NESN.com and was syndicated with permission.

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