He’s a simple man. Humble. When he leaves work on Wednesdays, he sometimes drives to McDonalds and orders a number one.
“You see me on TV and you say, oh man this f—— a——,” Bengals wide receiver Chad Ochocinco said. “It’s nothing like that.”
Ochocinco is the man of many names. When he’s not going by Esteban, Robin or PePe, he is acting like Chad Javon Johnson and showing fans all over the country how appreciative he is of their dedication.
Using social networks like Twitter, Facebook and Ustream, he keeps his followers up to date on his life and antics. What gets the fans most excited is when Ochocinco opens his heart and his wallet for fan dinners when the team is on the road.
Before the Cincinnati Bengals 39-32 loss to the Atlanta Falcons, Ochocinco tweeted:
“Oh my goodness I almost forgot, is anyone coming to eat with me tomorrow in Atlanta, just curious? I am bringing the jungle to ATL, literally.”
Later, Ochocinco announced 100 people would be invited to share dinner with him and friends and if they wanted the opportunity to punch their ticket, they had to have their “quick twitch muscles ready.”
Guests were met with a swanky red carpet ending at the front door of an estate flanked by an orange Lamborghini and a live Bengal tiger. Teammate Terrell Owens, or Batman, was also in attendance, dawning an argyle vest instead of his bat belt.
The mega meal was just the latest rest stop on a giving spree including feasts in New England, Indianapolis and Cleveland. He also has promised to have Thanksgiving turkey with fans in the Big Apple when his Bengals take on the New York Jets Nov. 25.
“That’s the whole point of the fan dinners,” Ochocinco said. “It’s to be able to interact with them. There is nothing more refreshing than being a superstar player and being accessible to anybody.”
Owens has become humbled as well by the experience and has also become very close to his Gotham City sidekick. After a battle of one-on-one on the court at Paul Brown Stadium, Owens said, “He’s a jerk and he can’t play basketball.”
When “the jerk” was in Cleveland to battle the rival Browns, he teamed up with receiver Josh Cribbs at XO Prime Steaks and picked up a tab of $10,000 for food and drinks. After hundreds of Ochocinco’s 1.4 million Twitter followers invaded the West St. Clair Avenue address, the man of the hour arrived in a taxi van and led the 85 people who were allowed into the steakhouse in prayer. Never far from a phone, he tweeted, “Man what a beautiful turnout at XO Prime Steakhouse, I’ve got to be the only person to get Bengal and Brown fans together without problems.”
Despite the hatred between Queen City fanatics and their northern counterparts, Ochocinco has maintained a friendly rapport with Browns fans, even after his Dawg Pound plunge in 2009.
“These are fans of mine,” Ochocinco said. “That’s not what it’s about. It’s not about talking trash, but the opportunity to meet me. I want to let people know that I’m cool, down to earth, a regular guy, just like you.”
Chad Javon Johnson was raised in Miami by his grandmother, Bessie Flowers.
“I got where I am now by the squeeze of the crack, by that much,” Ochocinco told ESPN in 2006.
Ochocinco ascended the football ranks at first as a star quarterback, but could not commit in the classroom as he did on the gridiron and was often disciplined by Flowers.
Flowers told Ochocinco he had to “make the grade first” if he wanted to continue playing and asked his then-coach to bench him. The coach didn’t believe her until she insisted, “Do you want me to put it in writing for you?”
“I said my talent can take care of everything,” Ochocinco said. “I don’t have to worry about school. I’m fast. I can run. I can catch.”
This mentality led to poor grades and no Division 1 offers for Ochocinco after high school. He then enrolled at Langston University in Oklahoma, where he never saw the playing field because of an expulsion for fighting.
His next stop was Santa Monica College, where he would flunk out in 1998. His then-Receiver Coach Charles Collins corralled the falling star, but was becoming “sick of him.” Still, Ochocinco climbed back and made a name for himself before starring at Oregon State University and being drafted by the Bengals in the second round of the 2001 NFL draft.
“Predominantly he’s a quiet guy,” Bengals Head Coach Marvin Lewis said. “He didn’t grow up with some of the opportunities that some of these other guys have had and has come to them later in life.”
With the fame and the sparkling status, Ochocinco wont forget his route to fame just like his routes on Sundays.
“The perception of me is cocky and arrogant,” Ochocinco said. “My grandma raised me this way. When I touch the field, I’m a different character. Everybody knows they get to see the real me.”
By the numbers, Ochocinco is king. He is just behind New Orleans Saints running back Reggie Bush in Twitter followers, but his Facebook family exceeds 1 million and is tops in the league.
Ochocinco tweeted an average of 26 times per day in the week leading up to the game against Atlanta. With his thumbs always hammering the keyboard and the toll of an NFL schedule, he has little time for a social life.
“People don’t see how serious he is about football and how important football is to him,” Lewis said. “Everybody sees this guy out there that draws a lot of attention to himself, but what they don’t see is that football is most important to him.”
When he’s not promoting his news network, the OCNN, performing the salsa on Dancing with the Stars or promoting his iPhone app, Mad Chad said he stays away from alcohol and fathers his son, Chad Johnson II, and daughters, Jicyra, Chade and Cha’iel.
“It’s important to be accessible,” Ochocinco said. “I’m not just a superstar and elite athlete, but I am just like them. Perception may be a little different until you really know who I am.”
Façade of Success
Although Ochocinco says he is quiet, he also says sometimes it’s not working out for him on the football field. Batman has taken a quiet approach this season as well, but his reasons stem from past scrutiny.
“Some people read into it the wrong way,” Owens said. “I know I have been a victim of that and there are things that I want to say. Just because of the perception of things that have happened in the past, I tend to just sit back and watch and let things unfold. If Chad needs to be that leader and be more vocal, then that’s what he has to do. I just need to let it unfold and do the best I can do.”
After catching 12 balls for 159 yards and a touchdown during week one at New England, Ochocinco had just 157 yards the next five weeks and didn’t get to do any river dancing. He said in his bye week something had to change.
“I need to come back and be Chad,” Ochcinco said. “There is no bulletin board material, no excitement, no trash talking and no fun. Right now I haven’t been playing with confidence. I haven’t talked to the media the way I should in a long time. I tried to take a more quiet approach and it hasn’t worked for me. My confidence is built around me saying things and forcing me to back up what I said. I’m 32 and I thought I’d be a little bit more mature with the quiet approach, but that s— don’t work.”
Ochocinco then shipped boxes filled with shirts with his Mad Chad character on them to Falcons defensive backs Brent Grimes, Dunta Robinson, Chris Owens, William Moore and Thomas DeCoud.
The antic resulted in 10 grabs, 108 yards and a touchdown, as Ochocinco was one of Carson Palmer’s top targets on a three touchdown day.
Chad’s kitchen won’t hit the road again until Nov. 14, when the Bengals return to Indianapolis. At St. Elmo’s steakhouse, 64 Colts and Ochocinco fans were treated to din
ner when the teams battled during preseason.
“If your city is on the BENGALS schedule dis season please look forward to 2 cool dinner outings when we play your team,” Ochocinco tweeted.