Can't say I'm surprised, but Stafon Johnson's career as a Titan is over. I'm not mad either. I can't feel too sorry for him. I know he'll find a niche somewhere. All I'm feeling right now is regret that this young man didn't have a chance to shine here in Tennessee.
There's not a doubt in my mind that Stafon was given a fair shot to make the team. Anything implying the contrary would be egregious. The fact of the matter is just that Tennessee's backfield is incredibly deep with Chris Johnson, Javon Ringer, and Jamie Harper. The final spot on the practice squad obviously came down to Herb Donaldson and Johnson. Donaldson showed more in the abbreviated preseason and thus was awarded a spot on the team. It's easy to sit here and criticize the team for going with Donaldson here. After all, Johnson's story of rehabilitation and second chances is one of the best stories of the year. That's more of what I want to focus on today. The courage and the perseverance that a very special player showed after a horrific incident that left him fighting for his life.
Most of us are familiar with how Johnson found his way into the prayers of many. On one fateful day in the September of 2009, Johnson's life was changed forever. He dropped a 275 pound barbell on his neck. He was rushed to the hospital while bleeding profusely from his mouth and nose. Despite torn muscles and crushed vocal cords, Johnson survived. Doctors attributed this miracle to Johnson's incredible fitness and incredibly developed neck muscles that allowed him to keep breathing despite having his main breathing passage horribly mangled by the accident. Somehow, Johnson made it back onto the field before the end of the year. He was present at the Senior Bowl and gave a strong enough showing to be signed by our favorite team. He beat the odds again by sticking with the team despite a severely dislocated ankle that left him unable to play for nearly the entire year. After all of this, one of the most courageous players I've ever had the pleasure of cheering for was released.
As if the barbell incident wasn't enough, the story of Stafon Johnson also hits incredibly close to home for me. Anyone who knows me is aware of the fact that I grew up without a father figure. The details don't matter, it's just how it things were. While he's not the first player with father issues to make it to the NFL, the fact that he lost an important male figure and dedicated his career on the field to them makes his story that much more inspiring to me. I just can't get enough of this.
Anyway, like I said, I think most of us saw this coming. That still doesn't make it much easier for me to swallow. It's occurred to me that if you weren't actively rooting for Stafon Johnson to outplay Herb Donaldson this year that you probably didn't have a soul. Look, it's nothing personal against Herb, from what I can tell he's a great guy too, but let's be honest here, if Johnson had once again beaten the odds, you know it would've been the feel good story of the offseason. Instead, he's been cast off to find his way with another team. I guess that's all fine and good, but my selfish side was hoping that he'd find his way here with us.
After some quick thinking, I've realized just how selfish I was really being. Johnson's story isn't one that can be confined to one specific team. This tale of perseverance is much bigger than a roster spot; what this is is simply another opportunity for him to prove himself. Holding him back here isn't advantageous to anyone, especially not Johnson. Everyone has hope that he'll find a spot that he can stick in. Tennessee just isn't the place for him to do that. If getting cut is what he needs to reach that place, I'm all for it. To want him to be here just to feel good that he's doing well in our house is dumb. The fact is that I'll continue to cheer for him wherever he goes. If he goes to Houston and rips up the Titans for 200+ yards, I'm gonna be pissed as hell, but hey, at least it's a guy with a back story that everyone can get behind.
It's been an unremarkable run here in Tennessee for number 26, but I don't think we'll be forgetting it anytime soon.