CARSON, Calif. -- A quick 10-second sprint charge on a treadmill usually isn't a big deal; it (or something like it) is part of the training for any athlete looking to retain (or regain) his or her explosiveness. But occasionally, such things have a deeper meaning. Such was the case for Tennessee Titans running back Stafon Johnson, who was able to get back on the treadmill for the first time in months last week during his rehab and training at the Athletes Performance facility at the Home Depot Center under the supervision of trainer Travelle Gaines (standing to Johnson's left in the video).
Johnson suffered a broken fibula and severely dislocated ankle in the team's 2010 preseason opener against the Seattle Seahawks. It was an interesting circumstance for Johnson, because the Seahawks were coached by Pete Carroll, who coached Johnson at USC. And when the injury happened, Carroll was on the field just as quickly as Titans coach Jeff Fisher.
Johnson had already come back from a serious injury, when he suffered a horrific bench press accident while working out at USC in September of 2009. A barbell with 225 pounds set on it fell and crushed Johnson's larynx, and doctors later told him that had his neck not been so well-developed, he might have died. But he came back from that injury, and he's coming back from the leg injury that robbed him of a rookie season in the NFL.
An undrafted free agent, Johnson was given an injured/waived designation after his injuries, and all signs point to his being able to compete for a spot in the Titans' running back rotation in 2011. Just as impressive was the fact that Johnson took this enormous step without the benefit of a team facility or team medical staff, as the current lockout has prevented players from being able to use those facilities and professionals on staff.
A few hours after that first run, I talked to Stafon about the long road back.
"I'm just doing whatever God's put in my way to do," Johnson told me. "Whatever he has for me. I pray that I can be an inspiration to others, to let them know that anything can happen. You've just got to keep your mind tuned. I can't let little things … get in the way of where I want to go. (I was blessed) to be able to talk again and breathe again, so why not go after what I want to go for?"
Why not, indeed,