Inky Johnson | This is How You Turn Tragedy into Triumph
Inky Johnson – Impact. Inspire. Empower.
Inky Johnson was 8 games away from playing in the NFL when tragedy struck. Here is why he is an inspiration machine who refuses to let tragedy define his life.
I said “I can’t move. There’s a shock going through my whole body. I can’t feel anything man.” I still remember the day I was in the film room watching film and I was watching the California Bears and my defensive backs coach Larry Slade came in the room. He said “Inky Johnson, I got some good news for you.” I dropped the clicker and I said “Coach, what is it?” He said “All you have to do is play these next 10 football games. You’re an automatic multi millionaire.”
I ran out of the room. I got on the phone. I called my mother and my grandmother. I said “Listen, after this season our lives are about to change forever.” Little did I know our lives were really about to change. The first game we come out playing against California Bears. I get an interception, we shut them down, we get the victory. Second game, we’re playing against Air Force. It gets late in the game, we found ourselves in a dog fight and I approach to tackle like I approach any other tackle and the way I’m approaching it, either I’m gonna knock you out or you’re gonna knock me out. I’m 165 pounds. I can’t play with anybody. But at the point of contact, when I hit this guy, something different happened that had never happened to me before in my life.I hit him and it seemed as if every breath in my body left. My body went completely limp. I fell to the ground and I blacked out. I looked at the doctor because I couldn’t feel my right arm. They had poked me with all types of needles. Inky can you feel this? Can you feel it? I couldn’t feel a thing. They took me back, they ran a CAT scan, and they rolled me back into my room and I’ll never forget it.
All in about a 15-second timeframe, I was laying near my bed. My father, he went to take a step in and he looked at me. He said son, I can’t do it. He walked out. My mother, she came in. She was running. She kissed me on the forehead. She said a prayer. She said Ink, everything is gonna be okay and she ran out. As soon as my mother stepped out of the room the doctor rushed in from the opposite side and said hey, get in here we gotta rush this guy back to the emergency surgery. He’s about to die. I said what? My mom just told me everything is about to be okay. He said son, what happened, you have busted up some [inaudible 00:01:59] artery in your chest. You’re bleeding internally. We have to rush you back and take the main vein out of your left leg and plug it into your chest in order to save your life.
When I woke up from recovery the same doctor was standing over me. He said Inky, I have some good news and some bad news for you. I said you got some bad news for me after telling me I was about to die? I’m still alive. How bad can it get? I’m still here. He said the good news is son, we saved your life. I said thank you sir. He said the bad news is, you have nerve damage in your right shoulder. You probably can never play the game of football again in your life. I said doc, no disrespect man, but I’m eight games away. I’ve been working for this ever since I was seven years old doc. There’s no way. God, not now God. Let me make it the NFL so I can help my family first. We missed meals. There’s no way. I never cheated. I never cheated myself. I gave everything I had to it and I respected it. I never cheated. There’s no way that my career can be over. I said send me up to the Mayo Clinic.
After several visits, I’ll never forget, this is when reality set in. It was me, my mother, and my father in the room and the doctors came in. They said Inky Johnson, here’s the deal. They said son, we hate to tell you, but your arm, it would never be the same again, your hand, it would never be the same again. Son, you can never play the game of football again. He said son, here are your surgery options. We can take the muscle out of the back of your left leg, plug it into your right arm, but there’s a possibility that you’ll be left with a weak left leg and a weak left arm the rest of your life. Or we could take a nerve out of your left arm, reroute up into your chest, down into your right arm, but there’s a possibility that you’ll be left with two weak arms the rest of your life, or we would take a nerve out of your left rib, reroute it up to your chest, down into your right arm, but there’s a possibility that you’ll be left with a braething problem and a weak right arm the rest of your life. By the way, tell us what you wanna do in the morning.
The next morning, I walked into the doctors office. They said son, what option did you choose. I said no disrespect to you doc, I’m not choosing an option. The situation is out of your hands. Cut me where you gotta cut me. I said I know I will come out of this situation okay.
As I stand right here before you on this stage today, they cut me six times down my left thigh. They cut me two times across my right rib. They cut me two times across my pec. They cut me one time across the left side of my neck. They cut me one time across the right side of my neck. They cut me from the bottom of my armpit all the way down to the bottom of my hand. And after they got done cutting on me, they said son you gonna be in this hospital for the next 40 days.
I walked out of the hospital on the third day. They said you broke a record. How did you do it?
I said first and foremost the thing I want y’all to understand I will never let a circumstance or a situation define my life. But most importantly, you know what I had invested? I had sweat equity. I had been working my whole life. What I didn’t understand by being determined to chase something, by being committed to it, and what commitment is, commitment is staying true to something you said you were gonna do long after the mood that you have set it in has left. You see people think commitment is saying yes, I’ll do it on days when it feels good, but I’ve been committed to everything that I ever started in my life and I never stopped and I never quit.
So by being committed to everything that I started, I finished it and built a certain type of spirit. It built a certain type of mentality. It built a certain type of individual and so now I couldn’t quit even if I wanted to. I couldn’t lay in the bed even if I wanted to. I couldn’t stop even if I wanted to. I had too much sweat equity in my life and everything I was doing.
I understood the process is more important than the product. It wasn’t about the outcome for me, whether I made it to the NFL or not. That was inconsequent to God’s plan for my life, but I was gonna fall in love with that process because I understood by falling in love with that process, it was gonna turn me into a machine.
A lot of people need a little extra money to get motivated. a lot of people need whatever the case may be, a little bonus to get motivated. I don’t need anything but breath in my body and life. Everyday I wake up, I understand. I’ve got two children depending on me. I understand I got a wife depending on me. I understand I’ve got a world that needs me. The reason I go in life with the passion and the zeal that I go at it with is because I understand everyday of my life is somebody in the world that is depending on me. It may not be you and if it’s just about you you’re in trouble because I’m telling you you’re gonna hit something in life that’s a lot tougher than you and it’s gonna test your will and it’s gonna test your heart and if it’s just about you and it’s just about the product, it will crush you.
Everyday I get up I understand there’s somebody in the free world that’s looking at me to see if I’m gonna keep going so I can’t quit. So I went back to school the next week after they had just saved my life. I was back in class. I had to learn how to write all over again. I had to learn how to walk all over again. I had to learn how to tie my shoe all over again. I had to learn how to bathe all over again. I had to learn how to live life all over again. Never one time did I say let me go home. I need a break.
You see the thing we have to understand about everything that we’re apart of, first and foremost it’s a blessing by God. When it’s a blessing you can’t help but to give everything you’ve got to it. My life got saved. God spared my life. I almost died. The doctors came to me on a field. He was on one knee. He grabbed my wrist and he said son, you don’t have a pulse. I don’t even know how you’re still living.
My last doctor visit, they came to me and they said sorry Inky Johnson, you will never be able to use this arm or hand again in your life. I said no disrespect to you doc, but I will use this arm and this hand everyday for the rest of my life by the way that I live my life. Everyday, I’m gonna impact someone’s life. Everyday I’m gonna impact someone. Everyday I’m gonna inspire someone. Everyday I’m gonna encourage someone.
Anybody that has direct contact with people on a daily basis, that is an opportunity to change someone’s life. I won’t ever pass up an opportunity to be of encouragement to other people. Don’t ever pass up an opportunity to inspire someone. Don’t ever pass up an opportunity to empower someone. Don’t ever pass up an opportunity to show someone love because the thing about it, my wound …
Like you can see this. You can see my arm. My wound is visible. But there’s a lot of people in this room that are wounded. You can’t see it. It’s internal. So the opportunities that we pass up to be a blessing to other people, we can save their life, which is [inaudible 00:08:10] common. Because sometimes the thing about life, life always comes along when we make up our mind to try to distract us. But truth be told, we all know that we’re stronger together. Alone, weak. Can do nothing. Together, strong, unstoppable. Can change the world.