Colorado football coach dies fulfilling highest calling possible: Saving his daughter’s life

Cameron Smith
Prep Rally

There are few words to comfort young Gracie Johnson, a 13-year-old survivor of a tragic rock slide in the Buena Vista, Colo., near Denver. While the teen survived, both of her parents perished in the sudden slide, as did her older sister and two of her cousins.

Yet one of those who died did so to save Gracie's life, paying the ultimate sacrifice so that she could live on.

As reported by the Denver Post and CBS News, Dwayne Johnson was killed during the rock slide as he covered Gracie to protect her from impact int he rock slide. The tragedy occurred in Chalk Creek Canyon as the Johnsons went for a family hike. Only Dwayne was able to reach a fellow family member in time to save them from mortal injury.

"[Gracie Johnson] told me at the last second when the boulders were coming down on top of them that he covered her up and protected her which I believe it saved her life," Buena Vista deputy Nick Tolsma told CBS News.

According to the Post, Gracie Johnson was found alongside her late family and was then airlifted to a Denver hospital, where she was treated for a broken leg. The middle schooler is expected to make a full physical recovery.

In the meantime, those who knew the Johnsons have been quick to honor the legacy of the entire Johnson family, including Dwayne and Dawna, both of whom served as coaches at Buena Vista High (Buena Vista, Colo.).

Dwayne was an assistant football coach at the school but collected a salary of just a single dollar while working as an electrical and landscaping handyman throughout Buena Vista. Dawna Johnson served as the school's girls track and field coach. Together, the couple formed a major part of the athletic fabric of the school.

Now they are both gone, though their daughter lives on thanks to Dwayne Johnson's last valiant act of bravery.

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