The horrific mishap that led to USC senior running back Stafon Johnson undergoing an emergency tracheotomy and reconstructive surgery on his throat fortunately was enough to save the young man's life. Johnson's injury, explained by Dr. Gudata Hinika, the trauma medical director at California Hospital Medical Center, likely would have killed a regular person. Only Johnson's muscular build saved and the quick reactions of the USC weight room staff and the medics at California Hospital Medical Center kept this story from being a tragic one.
"Had that been any one of us, meaning me, we would have not survived," Hinika said. "His neck was so solid, so muscular ... and the discipline that one learns from being athletic also really helped him to calm down and just do what he needed to do. He took instruction very well. All this combination and his physical fitness contributed to his outcome."
Following more than 7 hours of surgery, Johnson has stabilized and has shared in non-verbal communication with family and friends. Though his rehabilitation will keep him from playing in another game for USC, doctors believe that he can have a full recovery, keeping Johnson's dreams of playing in the NFL a realistic option.
For NFL teams needing help at running back, that assessment is a great one, as Johnson had emerged as one of the best senior backs in the country. The season-ending loss of Buffalo's James Starks to a labral tear and Oregon's LaGarratte Blount to suspension for fighting had already weakened the crop, especially for bigger backs.
Don't be surprised if there is a mass exodus of underclassmen backs this year in response to the vacuum.