NASHVILLE, Tenn. —When Titans receiver Andre Johnson looks across the field on Sunday at Nissan Stadium, he won't see a rival coach in Chuck Pagano.
Johnson views Pagano, head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, much differently. He's known him for more than half his life, since he was 16 years old.
"He recruited me to Miami (Fla.),'' Johnson said of Pagano. "He is like family to me. He has spent so much time around my family. My mom, my uncle, my brother, they all grew to pretty much accept him as part of our family. I've always had a great relationship with him. He's just a great guy."
Johnson, a seven-time Pro Bowler who's in his 14th NFL season, was a Parade All-America selection as a senior at Miami (Fla.) Senior High School, where he also lettered in track and basketball.
Pagano was an assistant coach at the University of Miami (Fla.) from 1995-2000, when he first met Johnson, and went into his home. He's now in his fifth season with the Colts.
Johnson, who joined the Titans at the start of training camp, was reunited with Pagano in Indianapolis last season. Johnson caught 41 passes for 503 yards and four touchdowns last year with the Colts after spending his previous 12 seasons with the Texans.
"When you are coming out of high school, you are looking for someone who is going to be honest with you and be real with you about certain situations, and he was very straightforward and very honest with me and my family," Johnson said of Pagano. "Those are the type of relationships that carry on for years to come."
Johnson has nine catches for 85 yards and two touchdowns with the Titans. In his career, Johnson has 1,062 catches for 14,185 yards and 70 touchdowns in 190 career games.
In a conference call with Nashville media, Pagano called Johnson "a special guy."
"A good football player, but better person,'' Pagano said of Johnson. "Just a great human being, a selfless guy, talent, talent, talent. He doesn't say much, he just shows up every single day and gives you everything that he has. He's a great person and a great human being. He's always put the team first. He's playing well, and they're finding ways to get him the football and he's producing for his team like he always has. He's just a special guy, and I've got a lot of love for that guy and his family."
Johnson said he enjoyed his time with the Colts, and Pagano, last season, "even if we didn't have the season we wanted to have."
Johnson is optimistic about the direction of the Titans, winners of two straight games.
He hopes to make an impact against his old team, and friend, on Sunday.
"I think this organization is definitely headed in the right direction,'' Johnson said of the Titans. "You can just feel the change and things in the locker room. We know we have a good football team, and it is just a matter of us executing week in and week out. We were able to start the second quarter of the season off on the right foot so hopefully we can keep it going on Sunday."