Every NFL draft brings to our attention players with compelling personal stories.
The most compelling one we’ve seen so far this year belongs to Purdue cornerback Josh Johnson, as told by Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
When Johnson was five years old, Johnson and his brother (Massachussetts defensive back Trey Dudley-Giles) collided with their uncle, who was carrying a pot of boiling water. Johnson pushed his brother from the path of the water, and Johnson suffered third-degree burns on 35-percent of his body.
With severe burns on his side, thigh, and back, Johnson spent more than three weeks in the hospital. Johnson and his family were told that Johnson wouldn’t walk again.
“You’re telling me I’ll never be able to play or never be able to walk again?” Johnson said. “I can’t play baseball, I can’t play football, I can’t run around with my friends, so I was upset.”
Within a year, he was playing football and baseball. And the memories of what he dealt with help him now.
“It just always made me feel like I can overcome anything,” Johnson said. “Playing football in front of thousands and thousands of fans, I’m never nervous. I just feel like it’s something I have to overcome again.”
The experience has also given Johnson great perspective.
“If I ever go through tough times, I always remember I’ve had a worse day,” Johnson said. “If there was a day I had to do conditioning, I always knew I had a worse day than this. It can’t be that bad. I can overcome it. So it’s really just a mind thing. And if you have that mind, it really doesn’t matter. You just go out there and grind.”
Johnson, who ran the 40-yard dash in 4.65 seconds at the Scouting Combine, is regarded as a mid-to-late-round draft pick. Regardless of where he’s drafted, he has been through a lot tougher challenges than the ones he’ll be facing in the NFL.