Johnson brings story of inspiration to MLK Luncheon
By Joel Davis | (email@example.com)
Former University of Tennessee football player Inky Johnson brought his story of sacrifice and faith to the Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Business Luncheon held at the Airport Hilton on Friday.
Johnson played defensive back for the Vols from 2004-06 before suffering a serious shoulder injury that ended his on-field career, but the adversity has not dampened his spirits. Being able to provide an example and inspiration for others to overcome their own troubles gives meaning to a life, he said.
“When a situation can help you be a part of God’s ultimate master plan, that’s a true honor and a privilege,” he said.
Johnson played in 23 games during his college football career, including eight starts. He finished with 10 career pass breakups and intercepted a pass in Tennessee’s 2006 season-opening victory over California. One week later, Johnson suffered an injury late in a win over Air Force, ending up with tremendous nerve damage in his shoulder.
“They completed the surgery,” he said. “I like to think I came out OK. I’m still breathing. I’m can still talk. I can will walk. I’m still here. I can live a quality life.”What Johnson cannot do is use his right hand or right arm. “I’ve been left with paralysis in my right arm now for the past six years and pain in my arm every day.” The plight did not keep Johnson from continuing to strive. He learned to write with his left hand and continue to attend classes at the University of Tennessee. He finished his undergraduate degree and went on to earn a master’s degree.“Somebody is always watching and seeing how we are going to respond to whatever situation may come up,” he said. “I couldn’t throw in the towel. I couldn’t quit.”
The trials have molded Johnson into a better person, he said. “It’s fortified my faith. It’s made me a better man. It has enhanced my relationship with God. It has made me a better husband to my wife and a better friend to my friends. What this situation has done for others around me is priceless.”
Wouldn’t go back
When others ask Johnson if he could go back in time and prevent his injury, he says no. “I tell them I wouldn’t change my situation for nothing in the world.”
Johnson had striven for many years to make it all the way to the NFL before the injury destroyed his football career. “I was going to be the one who changed my parents’ situation,” he said.
Still, he wears a dog tag engraved with a verse from the Bible: Jeremiah 29:11. “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”
“This was predestinated a long time ago,” he said. “... I was looking at the situation selflessly. It wasn’t about me. It was about this grand scheme called life. I am of the firm opinion that we all have the responsibility to make this world a better place.”
Because of his example, Johnson said that three of his younger cousins have graduated college and now two are serving in the U.S. Army. “At the end of the day, all I try to do is help someone along the way.”
Johnson is the author of “Inky: An Amazing Story of Faith and Perseverance.”