While the SFA men's basketball team is pleased to have made it to the Southland Conference tournament with the No. 1 seed, one Lumberjack is just thankful to be alive to witness it all.
An out-of-state drive home almost turned deadly for Jared Johnson.
On his way to South Carolina last August, Johnson traveled through Atlanta. That's where he fell asleep at the wheel after driving 11 hours straight.
Through determined will power and a miraculous recovery, he's still managed to see playing time this year to help lead his teammates to victory.
“I just remember the first flip. I really didn't realize until I woke up and saw paramedics looking down at me and I'm like ‘What happened?’” said Johnson.
Johnson believes walking away from the accident it nothing short of a miracle.
“I’m just thankful and blessed to be here today,” said Johnson.
Not wearing his seat belt, Johnson was ejected through the windshield and found 30 feet away from his car.
He suffered three broken ribs, had fractures to his neck and spine, strained ligaments in his shoulder and knee, and had several lacerations on his body.
Even while wearing a neck brace, quitting basketball wasn't an option for Johnson.
“It was just a matter of how long it would take for me to come back and be able to play,” said Johnson.
From August it was three months until Johnson said he could start running again. Underweight from losing muscle mass from his accident, Johnson was on the court, but limited, when the season started in November.
“After two, three minutes he needed to come out. Jared Johnson last year never needed that. He was in peak condition,” said head coach Brad Underwood. “It's been a process but I’m awfully proud of him for his commitment to his teammates, his desire to help this team and he's been a big part of this team’s success.”
“It was recommended for me to sit out this year but I felt like my body was right and that I could contribute and help the team,” said Johnson.
The senior certainly has pulled his weight by playing in all 30 games this year and adding 186 points on the boards.
However, his role has changed from being a starter last year to embracing being a second force off the bench.
“I just want to be able to help the team and contribute,” said Johnson. “The thing that I feel is that you have different roles. It kind of plays into a bigger picture so by me being in this role, it's just making me better and I’m helping the team. So it's positive all the way around.”
Johnson's role of humbly inspiring he's teammates has not gone unnoticed. He has been a constant reminder that when the going gets tough, the tough get going.
“It's life. That's all I can really say. I feel that to get to something, you have to go through something. Those are the keys to success,” said Johnson. “As long as I don't hang my head and I keep going, no matter what happens I feel like I am going to be okay.”
“The team saw the pictures. They saw the car. They saw what he went through. To see him comeback absolutely it was a very, very positive moment for this basketball team,” said Underwood.
Johnson said talking publicly about his traumatic experience is tough mentally to relive, but he wants to inform others just how important wearing your seat belt is and discuss safety precautions to take when driving long distances. Johnson even has plans to talk to about his accident back in his hometown to caution others.
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