It’s not easy to make it in the NFL when you’re not born and raised in the nation in which the league operates. Especially if you never even reach the level of high school football in the states. Chukwuma Okorafor arrived in the US very late, but he was already playing college ball in high school.
Chase Claypool played his high school football in Canada, where he was born and raised, before posting a highlight tape on his Facebook page and he got a little help passing it around. That’s when some US colleges finally started taking notice of him, and he eventually landed at Notre Dame.
Then, of course, with the Pittsburgh Steelers, via the second round. And he has already been christened Mapletron, an homage to former Detroit Lions great Calvin Johnson, whose nickname during his playing days was Megatron.
Although Johnson clearly had Hall of Fame talent, and may actually end up in the Hall of Fame (potentially sooner rather than later), Claypool has drawn a lot of comparisons to him because of their height-speed-weight similarities. Hence the nickname.
It doesn’t hurt that the young man has already made some highlight plays in his career, starting with the first target of his career back in week one, when he went up to grab an improbable ball for a 28-yard gain down the right sideline. He had an 84-yard touchdown a week later.
Speaking to TSN recently, Claypool said that he learned that Johnson is actually following his career. He told his hosts that the retired wide receiver reached out to his former Lions teammate, tight end Eric Ebron (who is now of course with the Pittsburgh Steelers), to talk about the young receiver.
“Calvin Johnson actually texted my teammate, Ebron, and said he watched the game, said ‘good game’. He said he noticed me and he thinks that I have a decent future ahead of me, so that was pretty cool to hear through Ebron that Megatron, the guy that I got my nickname after, was just talking about me”.
That was following Claypool’s game in week five earlier this season. He caught seven passes on the day on 11 targets for 110 yards, scoring three touchdowns. He also scored a rushing touchdown in the game, giving him four total scores from scrimmage. That was the most in team history since 1968.
I’m sure he’s not the only young receiver he’s paying attention to, but it’s cool that Johnson now has Claypool on his radar. I suppose it’s hard not to when he’s making plays and has a nickname derived from his own, and already drew comparisons based on their physical and athletic similarities.