Senior Bowl Q&A: Stafon Johnson

The running back, whose USC career ended in a weight room accident, is back on the football field for the first time this week in Mobile. Johnson, who remains hoarse four months later, feels blessed to be in this position.

It was almost exactly four months ago when Stafon Johnson's world and football dreams came crashing down. It wasn't a ton of bricks but rather a bar loaded with 285 pounds falling across his throat.

The weight-room accident required a seven-hour surgery, which resulted in a tracheotomy to help the USC running back breathe and a feeding tube to keep him nourished.

Two weeks later, he left the hospital. A month after that, he spoke his first words. "God has a plan. Run, Stafon, run," Johnson said, repeating the last words of his late grandfather. "

This week at the Senior Bowl here in Mobile, Ala., Stafon has been running -- not to mention catching, blocking and getting tackled -- and football is back in his plans. This week's practices are the first time he's been on a football field since the Trojans' game against Washington State on Sept. 26. He's one of three halfbacks on the South roster who will be vying for playing time in Saturday's game.

"It feels good. It feels great. I feel awesome right now," said Johnson, who was the Trojans' leading rusher and punt returner in 2008 before scoring five touchdowns in four games in 2009.

We caught up with Johnson after Wednesday afternoon's practice.

Q: Do you realize what sort of inspiration you are to people?

A: That's my goal. My goal is to show how much God is in people's lives and how He's helping people along the way.

Q: Looking back, is there any sort of silver lining to what happened?

A: For the most part, I just want to handle what I can handle. I felt as if I give it my all, everything else should take its place.

Q: It's been a few months since you've been out on a football field. How's it going?

A: It's gone well. Every day, I'm getting better and better, and that's all you can ask for. You know, I'm not supposed to be where I'm at right now, so that's a plus.

Q: Is there anyone you leaned on to get through this?

A: My whole circle. Everybody back home, from my mom, my dad, my uncles, my doctors, my trainers. Everybody put in a great amount of effort into this whole deal. It's not only me.

Q: This is a big week for everybody, but especially you, isn't it?

A: I'm here. The only thing I can take care of is what I can take care of today. I can't really worry about what happened then. I'm here right now, and all I can do is make the best out of what I can do right now.

Q: To me, this looked like your best practice of the week. Would you agree?

A: Overall, yes. As long as you get better every day, that's all you can ask for, and that's what I've been doing.

Q: What have you been hearing from the scouts and coaches?

A: Everybody has a certain amount of things that they're interested in, and all that good stuff. I'm not worried about that right now. I'm worried about myself and my progression day in and day out. Everybody wants their questions answered. I'm out here just trying to erase those question marks.

Q: Did you ever think your football career was over?

A: No, my faith in God and my faith in what I know I can do -- I always knew that one day I'd be back on the football field. Didn't know where or when but I knew I'd be back out on the football field.

Q: It must be a thrill to get the pads back on.

A: It feels great. Of course, there's a little nervousness, but that's football. Once you keep playing and keep playing and let that emotion go through, you're still back to playing football.

Q: Excited for Saturday?

A: I'm really looking forward to it. I haven't had a game since Sept. 26. I'm anxious.

Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at

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