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“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”

-Jeremiah 29:11

Growing up in a 2-bedroom home with 14 people, life was never easy for Inky Johnson. As his mother worked double shifts every night to make ends meet, Inky Johnson and the rest of his family lived in a bitter reality. But it was even in the midst of the harshest circumstances that Inky Johnson found ways to be grateful. As he was growing up, he got the opportunity to play youth football. As he worked day in and day out to become the best player he could be, his potential was on the rise. People knew Inky Johnson would be a star.

Born in Atlanta, Georgia, Inky Johnson attended high school at one of the worst. But he was determined to make the NFL. As he readied himself for high school, a certain encounter with a police officer at his school began to mark his path to success. “I was attending Crim High School, the expectations were extremely low and it was one of the worst performing schools in the state of Georgia. When I went there my first day, there was a cop standing there asking people ‘What’s your plan little man?’ I told him I’m going to college at D1. He looked at me and he told me I’d end up in cell block D1. That same officer was the officer I went to see when I got the scholarship to Tennessee to play football and I slid the paper across his desk. What he was trying to make me understand was that he had heard so many kids say what they wanted to do but wouldn’t make it because they got swallowed up by their circumstance. He asked how I did it. I told him, I didn’t just want to go to college, I wanted to change the perception of my high school and change my family’s perception as well.” Inky Johnson’s mindset and work ethic led him on his way to the University of Tennessee where he would shine.

Inky made his impact known once stepping foot on campus at Tennessee. He was one of the faces of college football and a projected first round pick. But in a game against Air Force during his senior year, the unthinkable happened. He made a hit against an Air Force receiver that left him numb. As he was surrounded by teammates and coaches, he was rushed to the hospital. It was there he had emergency surgery that kept him alive. But soon he learned the news that his football career was over. Although at the time Inky Johnson was overcome with confusion and emotion, he says he soon learned his purpose may not have been football as he had initially thought. “First and foremost I think purpose is very important, and purpose gives us hope. Purpose is something that you’re not going to just bump into; it has to be intentional. It has to be something that is much greater than you so that when you hit adversity and hit challenges, your purpose is what pushes you through. When I was speaking, I got the same feeling as when I took the field.”

Soon Inky Johnson’s impact as a speaker began to take off. Millions have listened to his words and have been encouraged by his remarkable story. He emphasizes always being grateful and understanding that the process is often much bigger than the product. “I have friends that grew up in poverty, and friends that grew up with two parents and did well. The common factor in that denominator is gratitude and appreciating everything that is around us. I appreciated all those around me, and that gratitude changed my perspective. When my perspective changed, I was able to come into contact with my purpose and my mission. Perspective drives performance. However we view what we do will affect how we do what we do.”

Through it all, Inky Johnson says his biggest job starts at his own home. “My wife and I met in elementary school. We grew up 2 blocks away from each other, always were friends. We started dating and always had a great relationship. With my wife and our children, I have a responsibility. As the leader of my household, I have to protect and provide but also instill the correct thing and values in my children. The most important work I can ever do is in the walls of my home.” As Inky Johnson has made being a father and a husband a priority, he focuses on leading them up in a way that they will grow up to make a difference as well.

Inky Johnson has one of the most moving stories to be told. As he has overcome challenging adversity during his childhood only to have his NFL dreams taken away, he learned that God had a greater purpose in store. Because of his injury, his best friends who were taken in the first round of the NFL draft were all saved. His dad was saved because of his story. Although he says it would’ve been great to be in the NFL, he has no regrets. “Who you are as a man is far more important than who you are as a football player.” Inky Johnson has become one of the most admirable and respected men in the world of sports as he has inspired many to learn their purpose and change the world.


Ethan Kruse

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