Editorial: Former Vol Inky Johnson has always risen above

Oct. 22, 2013 @ 11:28 PM

Listening to former University of Tennessee football player Inky Johnson speak is a roller coaster of emotions.

Going in, you immediately know the outcome of the story. Evidence of the horrible injury that derailed the defensive back's career in 2006 is dangling from his right shoulder.

But the more he speaks, the more you almost believe it's all a bad dream and that, by the end of the story, he'll be back in the Vols' orange and white, a spark-plug cornerback with a strong desire to provide for his family by achieving his life goal with a spot in the NFL.

Johnson is an incredibly vibrant speaker, with stories that build his anthology and make the overall impact of his message — success by overcoming obstacles — all the more powerful.

Johnson shares tales of growing up in a 14-member family and sleeping on the floor. He adds bits about the "fortunate" times when he had a bed, only to share it with five siblings. He talks at length about his doubters and detractors, who said he couldn't get out of his inner-city neighborhood, couldn't overcome his slight stature and couldn't be the first in his family to attend college. 

He does all of that, and more.

Facing the tragedy of losing his athletic career during his junior season with the Vols because of a tackle gone horribly wrong, Johnson's next actions could serve as an inspiration to anyone.

Instead of packing it in and going home, Johnson stuck it out. Surrounded himself with positive examples and continued his educational career, eventually earning a master's degree.

He's served on Tennessee's defensive staff, married and fathered two children with his wife. He's authored a book and now tours the southeast, speaking about his obstacles and how he's overcome them.

With the challenges Johnson has faced, and still faces on a daily basis, his story serves as a guiding light for others who struggle along their daily paths. 

If the Sevier County High School students that heard the talk Tuesday take anything away from it, they should take away the power positive thinking has had for Johnson. He's never floundered in the bad situations he's faced. He's always taken what he's been dealt and made the most of it, backed by a strong faith in God instilled by his family.

He's truly an inspiration.