GAINESVILLE -- Roderick Johnson is doing his best to stay positive.
A week after learning he’d suffered a career-ending injury in practice, the redshirt sophomore spoke publicly Monday about his retirement.
In a candid statement released by UF, Johnson -- a right tackle who played in all 12 games last season -- discussed overcoming his heartbreaking condition, his pride for the Gator Nation and his goals for the future.
“Spinal stenosis -- April 3, 2015 -- the day that changed my life,” he said.
“It’s hard to walk away from this game, and it’s dearly easy to fall in love with when you have the right mindset and the dedication. I enjoyed my time as a Gator from the first day I got that call from Coach [Will] Muschamp. I instantly fell in love with a school I didn’t like since I was a kid (lol).
"I had a tough time trying to enroll due to my grades. I pulled through with the love and support from the UF staff. Taking the redshirt my first year was rough, so going into my freshman redshirt year I took it more serious. Listening to Coach [Mike] Summers coach and trusting his technique made me a great offensive lineman and I always had heart, of course.”
Johnson did, and his mettle was truly tested following a team scrimmage on April 3. The former American Heritage High standout was hit in practice and his life changed almost immediately. Johnson was initially diagnosed with a "stinger," but after he experienced numbness in his fingers and hands doctors soon discovered his career-ending condition.
In an instant, a potential NFL prospect had his dream ripped away. Still, as Johnson struggles to cope with reality he continues to maintain an optimistic outlook on the future.
“It’s a tough time as I try to move forward, but I still have some positives on the situation,” he said.
“I get to stand and talk to you instead of being in a wheelchair. I would like to say thanks to the coaching staff from Coach [McElwain] all the way down to the graduate assistants. Being in a highly powered offense, I wanted to prove I was a great athlete even when my knee bothered me sometimes.
“In looking forward to what the future brings, I look to be a great assistant coach and make sure these 2015 offensive linemen know what it takes to be a Gator, and for that, I love Gator Nation. You turned me from a boy to a man. I want to see my teammates be great because it can be taken away from you in just one play.”
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