But more than a few NFL observers raised eyebrows during the offseason after witnessing the type of swagger T.J. Houshmandzadeh exhibited after joining the Seattle Seahawks, perhaps thinking that when the team signed him to a five-year, $40 million deal, maybe Seattle got the bravado of Cincinnati’s other playmaking receiver, Chad Ochocinco.
Among Houshmandzadeh’s more boastful claims during the team’s run-up to training camp, he said he and quarterback Matt Hasselbeck will go to the Pro Bowl as a tandem, guaranteed a top-five receiving season and considered boycotting the 2010 version of the Madden video game because he was not pleased with the rating assigned to him.
But Houshmandzadeh says don’t misunderstand – the brimming confidence he shows is not an act to bring attention his way.
“This is what people don’t understand,” said Houshmandzadeh while sitting at his Seahawks locker after a recent practice. “I’ve always had confidence. From the first day I was on the Bengals, I always was the best receiver on the team, and the coaches will tell you that.
“But because the way the NFL works, I was drafted where I was drafted and they were going to give guys opportunities before me. Granted, I did get some opportunities and I was hurt a lot early on, so I have to take some of the blame for that.
“I probably spoke my mind more than a person in my position should have. But a lot of the swagger you’ve seen in Cincinnati, to be blunt that’s just me. But people take on certain personas and that’s really not them.”
Houshmandzadeh, who will be 32 in two weeks, was selected 204th overall in the seventh round of the 2001 draft, while then fellow Oregon State teammate Johnson, now famously Ochocinco, was selected by the Bengals in the second round.
The two took different paths to the Cincinnati starting lineup. Houshmandzadeh had to fight his way onto the field, while Johnson was starting sometimes as a rookie and then became a regular starter in his second year.
That’s how it’s been for Houshmandzadeh throughout his life, from his time as a tailback at Barstow (Calif.) High to his tenure at Cerritos College, where he joined the team without much fanfare and without a high school diploma, but eventually found his way onto the field.