For Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Bryant Johnson, going on the road meant going home.
When the Cardinals traveled to Baltimore to face the Ravens yesterday at M&T; Bank Stadium, it was Johnson's first visit to his hometown as an NFL player since Arizona drafted him in the first round in 2003.
It was a trip Johnson, a two-time All-Baltimore City/County pick and an All-Metro selection in his senior year at City, had been looking forward to since the schedule was released earlier this year.
"It feels good being able to play in my hometown," Johnson, 26, said in a telephone interview before the game. "I just want to go out there and play a great game."
Johnson's excitement was matched by that of his family and friends, 80 of whom enjoyed food and drink in a parking lot outside an office supply store on Russell Street before the game. ("I requested my jersey number ," Johnson said of his ticket request.)
Johnson's older brother, Corey, said he remembered watching his younger brother play in the City-Poly game at M&T; Bank Stadium in 1998.
"To have him come back and play on the same field that he played on in high school is surreal," Corey Johnson, 38, said. "It's awesome to have him come home and perform in front of the people who know him."
Bryant Johnson said his mother, Gladys, would be especially grateful for her son's return to Baltimore because he has paid for her to attend to every Cardinals game in Arizona.
Even though he has made a comfortable living in Arizona, Bryant Johnson said he misses Baltimore, especially a chicken box (four wings and fries) and a half and half. "In Arizona, they call it an 'Arnold Palmer,' but they don't use sweet tea," Johnson said with a sigh.
But his fondness for his hometown didn't change his objective yesterday.
"It's a business trip," Johnson said. "I have one goal: to come in and get a win."