In An Instant
David Freund, Chief Leadership Officer

In an instant, everything can change. Born on February 12,1986 in Atlanta Georgia, he grew up in a two-bedroom house with 13 other people. His ticket to a new life for him and his family was the NFL. During a recruitment visit to the University of Tennessee, he was assigned a host for the weekend. After taking in the planned activities for the day his host asked if he would like to go to a basketball game, a sorority party, or a barbecue.  His reply surprised his host, “I’d like to go back to the hotel if I could.” The host didn’t realize this was the first time this young man would have the opportunity to sleep in a bed by himself.

Without any hesitation, the young man committed to attend the University of Tennessee and improved his game with each passing year. As he started his senior year, his coach told him he would be one of the top 30 players to be drafted by the NFL. Play 10 more games and he would be a multi-millionaire. He could finally fulfill the promise he had made to his mom to change their life forever. In the first game of the season Tennessee handled Cal with ease, 35-0. On September 9, 2006 the second game would be played against the Air Force Academy. Late in the fourth quarter the quarterback dropped back and threw a perfect pass to his wide receiver around the 25-yard line. Cornerback Inky Johnson moves in to make the tackle. During the collision, the wide receiver’s helmet hit Inky between his shoulder blade and his neck. As Inky fell to the ground he felt each breath leave his body, and he blacked out. Inky’s dream of lifting his family out of poverty vanished in an instant. After undergoing emergency arterial surgery, Inky was alive, but he suffered nerve damage in his right shoulder. Inky Johnson would lose the use of his right arm and hand. If you ask Inky about life, he would say, “Life is a blessing and life is a gift. If you were to check out today, how would you want to be remembered.” Inky has spent the last 18 years leveraging his experience to add value to others.

I first heard Inky on the Ed Mylett podcast as I was sitting in stalled traffic on Interstate 81 near Carlisle, Pennsylvania. As the moments passed, I saw my ETA for getting home move from 8:30, to 9:00, then 9:30. I was getting so frustrated when Inky said, “Everyone leaves home in the morning looking forward to returning at the end of the day to greet their spouse and children. Each day, some never make it home.”  How selfish and foolish was I to be upset about a traffic jam. Why wasn’t I looking for the purpose behind the traffic jam? Why wasn’t I counting my blessing of having a very comfortable vehicle to wait in? Why wasn’t I rejoicing that the sun was shining at 5:00 pm and I could open a sunroof and get fresh air? All of those blessings, along with the delayed greeting at home, could be gone in an instant. Why wasn’t I thankful that I was able to spend two days with wonderful people at HP Hood’s Winchester, VA plant? Two days of great conversations and helping equip them to be more successful leaders in the future. I needed Inky to help me regain perspective. I needed to regain an awareness to fully live where my feet are and not yearn for something else in the future.

Who are the people you will meet today? What are the opportunities that you have all around you? What do you want to be remembered for? Inky’s life was changed in an instant and he was determined to live a faith-filled life and have a positive impact on everyone he can connect with. I want to live in the present and be more like Inky. I want to make the most of each day I am blessed to be part of. How about you?

If you would like to be encouraged, listen to The Ed Mylett Podcast – Inky Johnson: The Resilience Formula episode.