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Johnson tries to be like Lee; Breakout year in past in effort to be elite

Buffalo Bills receiver Stevie Johnson is a fun guy with a big personality.

He loves to interact with fans on Twitter. He likes to make music videos. His good-natured, "Why So Serious?" touchdown celebration in Cincinnati last year probably was the highlight of the entire Bills season. He just struck an endorsement deal with an eye-black company. (Yes, football fans, even eye-black companies give out endorsements.)

Don't get the idea, however, that Johnson needed to be fitted with a bigger helmet because of his breakout performance in 2010. Johnson says he's determined not to get caught up in too much hype.

"I got some more attention now," Johnson said. "But I feel the same, really. I have to prove myself again. I don't come in there like, 'Oh yeah, I did this last year.' That's last year. And last year wasn't even that great really, when I look back on it. OK, you missed this [play]. It could have always been better."

"Now I come in, and [people say] that's No. 13, that's Steve Johnson," he said. "I have to do better than last year so I can keep that level of attention. I don't come in thinking like I did this and I did that. That's only one season. I've got to do better."

Johnson had 82 catches for 1,073 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2010. Not bad for a guy who had 12 catches his first two seasons.

What does he do for an encore? Johnson shows deference to teammate Lee Evans.

"Just try to be like Lee," he said. "Lee's one of the elite receivers. He's had 1,000-yard seasons, multiple 1,000-yard seasons. That's what I want to do. I want to be one of those receivers you hear about. Steve Smiths and all that. [Larry] Fitzgeralds. I want to be like those guys. I want to have consistent, 1,000-yard seasons and multiple touchdowns. I don't want to get it twisted and sound like an arrogant guy or anything. But that's the next step for me. I feel like I want to be in that category with those receivers, like Lee is."

Evans had 37 catches last year. Asked about Evans' chances to rebound, Johnson makes it clear how he sees the Bills' receiver pecking order.

"I think he's going to come back like a monster," Johnson said. "I talked to him and told him, 'No matter what happened or what went down last season, you're our guy, you're our leader. You're our big brother, and I'm following you. I'm right next to you. We're all next to you.' There's no pressure on him. He's a seasoned vet."

Johnson's ability to stay grounded probably is helped by the fact he came into the league as a late seventh-round pick in 2008. He was the 31st receiver chosen that year.

Asked how he set out to improve this offseason, he said: "I guess I'd just say work," Johnson said. "Work more, work harder. I already feel like I'm disrespected when I get on the field. That's the mentality I take. I feel I'm going to go out there and go hard anyway."

Last year, Johnson's weight ranged from 202 to 210. This year he's at 205.

He sees building team chemistry as a key objective of training camp.

"Anybody can go out there every day and do your job," he said. "But we have to talk to each other, make each other better on the field and when we're in the dorms. Coming together more as a family. Having fun with each other. Maybe you made a catch at practice and maybe you did something wrong. Talk to that receiver, Naaman [Roosevelt] or Lee [Evans] or Roscoe [Parrish] -- communicate with each other -- so we can have that understanding that I can tell this dude anything and he'll listen, he'll respect me."

There's a good chance the Bills will show Johnson more respect by entering contract extension talks with him later this year. Johnson's deal is up after the 2011 season.

One deal, albeit much smaller, that's in Johnson's pocket is to endorse EyeBlack.com, strips worn under a player's eyes. Johnson's strips have the No. 13 with wings on them. NFL players, however, can't wear eye black with any markings on it during games.

"We think Stevie is a fantastic ambassador for our product," said Peter Beveridge, president of EyeBlack.com. "We think he's a real up-and-comer. He has the look and feel that fits our product."

e-mail: mgaughan@buffnews.com