Friday, February 09, 2007

Designing Keyshawn Johnson

Ever since the 1995 season – the lone bright spot of the second John Robinson era – we’ve known Keyshawn Johnson is a true Trojan. The stories about Keyshawn growing up around the USC campus and serving as a ball boy for the Trojans during the Marcus Allen and Ronnie Lott years is the stuff of Trojan Family lore.

Say what you want about his mouth, his book, or his run-in with John Gruden … Keyshawn walks the walk.

Besides, wouldn’t any proper Trojan have issues with a Notre Dame-loving supposed genius coach, whose only claim to fame is winning a Super Bowl with Tony Dungy’s players? The contrived “Chucky” facial expressions and pseudo tough-guy mannerisms would drive any self-respecting player nuts. But, I digress …

As we should all know, Keyshawn won the 1996 Rose Bowl for USC (despite horrific play-calling by then USC offensive coordinator Mike Riley) and for that, Key will always get every benefit of the doubt from me. The thing is the man deserves props, regardless.

Keyshawn has always been more than just a football player. In fact, relative to other bozos, he’s a freakin’ renaissance man.

For starters, Keyshawn graduated from USC with a degree in history, and upon receiving his first pay check from the Jets -- after they took him first overall in the ’96 draft -- he opened a successful restaurant in Beverly Hills. He’s done all the standard charity/scholarship fund/community work in L.A. and the cities where he’s played (New York, Tampa, Dallas, Charlotte), but he’s also made a point of improving and maturing as a person.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the piece the Los Angeles Times ran yesterday about Keyshawn’s interest and flat out sophisticated know-how in the design of his various homes and other real estate.
"When you're an athlete, most people think you don't know or care anything about design," Johnson says. "That's like saying all actors are on drugs and crazy."

Having invested in spec homes and decorated personal residences in New York, Florida, North Carolina and multiple spots in L.A. since he went pro in 1996, Johnson has become as confident in a furniture showroom as he is on the gridiron. He developed an interest in design when he first became a homeowner, he says, and life experiences have since shaped his tastes.

"I've stayed in some of the best hotels in the world. I read House & Garden and Casa Vogue," says Johnson, adding that he's a fan of Fendi's and Armani Casa's home collections. "I spend hours at Hennessy + Ingalls in Santa Monica looking at architecture books like some weirdo."

Richard Landry, a Los Angeles architect working on a mansion for Johnson in Calabasas, refers to his client as not just an athlete but an aesthete and an entrepreneur, one who has a solid understanding of how design can enrich lives and bank accounts.

"Keyshawn can actually read architectural plans and see the finished work," Landry says. "He strikes me as a guy with a vision who is open to the process."

Other athletes may invest in cars, clothes and diamonds, but Johnson has developed a real estate portfolio — and acquired a hands-on education in design along the way.
Who knew back when Keyshawn was shagging footballs for Marcus and Ronnie that he’d turn out to be this fine example of a 21st century aesthete "metrosexual" dude … so to speak? As Key himself once said, “Talk about your damn Rudy stories!”

Sure, the ugla "nation" might call this a fluff piece initiated by Keyshawn’s PR team (which it is) but what’s wrong with that? It’s not like anyone wants to read a feature about the linoleum and Ikea entertainment center Cade McNown chose for his double-wide trailer in Hollister.

So, we end with the inevitable: Just give Keyshawn the damn ... wallpaper ... or color palette ... or whatever it is designers use for designing stuff! And, Fight On!

We Are SC!

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