FILE - Houston Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson smiles as he answers a question after reporting for NFL football training camp, July 25, 2014, in Houston. Johnson is among 26 modern day semifinalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame's class of 2022. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, file)

As a Texans player, retired wide receiver Andre Johnson was always out front.

Johnson now has a chance to lead the Texans one more time, as the first Houston Texans player to enter the Pro Football Hall of Fame. In his first year of eligibility, Johnson on Thursday was named one of 15 modern-era finalists to be enshrined in Canton, Ohio in the Class of 2022.

“It means a lot,” said Johnson, who played for the Texans from 2003-14 before spending brief stints with AFC South rivals Indianapolis and Tennessee before retiring in the 2016 season. “I always tell people that you don’t play the game to become a Hall of Famer. You play the game to be a great player and help the team be successful. I don’t think it has really set in yet. It’s a tremendous honor.

“I’m thankful to the Hall of Fame committee for voting me as a finalist. It’s the biggest achievement you can have as a football player other than winning a Super Bowl. I’m excited about it, very humbled and very appreciative of the people who helped me throughout my career.”

Johnson spent the first 12 seasons of his career with the Texans, easily becoming the franchise’s best player in team history. The No.3 overall player selected in the 2003 NFL Draft out of Miami, Johnson went on to become the franchise’s all-time leader in career receptions (1,012), receiving yards (13,597), receiving touchdowns (64) and 100-yard games (51). Johnson also holds numerous individual game records for the Texans, including most receptions (14), receiving yards (273) and receiving touchdowns (three) in a game.

In 2017, the Texans honored Johnson during their game against the Arizona Cardinals when they inducted him as the inaugural member of the Texans’ Ring of Honor at halftime.

“I’m thrilled that Andre is getting the recognition he deserves,” said Texans Chair and CEO Cal McNair. “From the day we drafted him in 2003 throughout his entire career, Andre was everything we could have asked for in a player and person.”

Congratulations to Andre on this tremendous honor,” said Texans Co-Founder and Senior Chair Janice McNair. “Andre is not just a Hall of Fame player, but a Hall of Fame person and friend. He has accomplished so much on and off the field. We are grateful for his contributions to the Texans and our city. Andre holds a special place in our hearts.

Johnson will find out on Feb. 10 if he will indeed be a part of the 2022 Class when the Hall of Fame selection committee makes the class known. The other modern-era finalists include defensive end Jared Allen, offensive tackle Willie Anderson, defensive back Ronde Barber, offensive tackle Tony Boselli, safety LeRoy Butler, return specialist/wide receiver Devin Hester, wide receiver Torry Holt, linebacker Sam Mills, defensive lineman Richard Seymour, linebacker Zach Thomas, linebacker DeMarcus Ware, wide receiver Reggie Wayne, linebacker Patrick Willis, and defensive lineman Bryant Young.

There is no set number for any class, but rules stipulate that between 4 and 8 new members will be selected each year. All candidates must garner at least 80 percent approval from the selection committee.

I've been with The Defender since August 2019. I'm a long-time sportswriter who has covered everything from college sports to the Texans and Rockets during my 16 years of living in the Houston market....