Stevie Johnson and the rest of the Buffalo Bills hadn't been in Jacksonville long Saturday when he received some devastating news.
His 48-year-old mother — whose name, Rhonda, is tattooed in script across his right forearm — had died unexpectedly in Northern California.
The sixth-year player had a long talk with Coach Doug Marrone and cornerback Ron Brooks that night before deciding the best thing to do for himself was to stay in Florida and play against the Jaguars the next day with the rest of his teammates.
”We just sat and talked, talked about everything. It wasn't about football,“ Johnson said. ”I felt good about that. [Marrone] talked to me like I was his son. It made me feel comfortable with my decision, whichever way it went — to fly right back or to stay.
“We got business here and I'm already here, so let's take care of business and we'll take care of everything else after the game.”
The Bills' leading receiver also decided not to let any of his other teammates know what he was going through until after the game, which the Bills won, 27-20.
”I think it was him not wanting to be a distraction to the team or for anybody to feel bad for him,“ quarterback E.J. Manuel said. ”He just wanted us to go out there and get this win. Thank God we did for him and his mother and his family.“
The Bills' staff tried to get Johnson involved early in the game, throwing to him three times. He finished with one reception for four yards.
”I was in and out,“ Johnson said. ”I knew what the main goal was. It wasn't about taking away from the team and thinking about my mother. It was trying to get the victory here. I think I played it well.“
He added: ”It was tough, but we got the win. I'm happy and I'm sure she's happy.“