He played college football for both Santa Monica College and Oregon State University.
He was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals of the National Football League (NFL) in the second round of the 2001 NFL Draft, and played for the Bengals for ten seasons.
After graduating from Miami Beach Senior High School in 1997, Johnson attended Langston University but did not play football.
In 1997 he transferred to Santa Monica College, a community college in Santa Monica, California. Houshmandzadeh, he led his team to an 11–1 season and a victory over Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl that year.
He played for the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League (CFL) from 2014 to 2015.
In July 2016, he became a quasi-guest instructor for the Cleveland Browns.
In Johnson's rookie year, he saw moderate playing time, catching 28 passes for 329 yards and one touchdown.
He later surpassed the record in 2005, recording 1,432 yards.In 2000, he transferred to Oregon State University, after being aggressively recruited by coach Dennis Erickson to play for the Oregon State Beavers football team. He also broke a school record for the longest touchdown reception with a 97-yard reception in a game against Stanford University.The Cincinnati Bengals of the National Football League chose Johnson in the second round of the 2001 NFL Draft.He led the AFC in receiving yards for four consecutive seasons, and he made the Pro Bowl five straight times from 2003 to 2007.
In 2011, Johnson was traded to the New England Patriots with whom he played in Super Bowl XLVI.In 2012, Johnson played for the Miami Dolphins during preseason but was released following his arrest for domestic violence.