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Pain means little to grad

By Lance Lahnert

Cedric Johnson expected his senior year at Palo Duro to be special. It turned out to be an especially unpredictable year.

Editor's Note: The Amarillo Globe-News is profiling a student a day from May 9-29 as part of its 2008 graduation coverage. Students were nominated by Globe-News readers.
After all, how many high school seniors start the school year with two healthy kidneys and graduate with one?

Johnson suffered a freak injury in October that cost him his dream of playing college football and the final three weeks of high school.

"It was just one of things that went wrong and you wish you never saw happen and hope you never see again," said Steve Parr, Palo Duro football coach.

Johnson, while diving for a pass in a District 3-4A showdown against Randall in Dick Bivins Stadium, broke a rib that punctured a kidney.

"It was right before halftime," said Johnson, whocaught a school-record 53 passes his junior year. "The game was tied up. If I catch the ball, we probably go ahead and win.

"The route was an out and up. ... I dove for it, and the defensive back and I both had the ball. I snatched it from him and pulled it in.

"When I hit the ground, I broke my rib."

Playing hurt is part of football.

"I thought all I had done was knock the wind out of me," Johnson said. "I dove a lot of times in practice, and it had happened. But walking up to the training room at halftime, it was the longest two minutes of my life."

Johnson was taken to the hospital by his mother shortly after his walk off the field. Because of the puncture injury, he lost a kidney.

Johnson immediately knew his football career was over, the risk of injuring his remaining kidney was too high to continue playing the game he loved.

"I was frustrated at first," Johnson said. "And I'm not gong to lie. At first I was blaming God and asking God, 'Why me? Why not somebody else?' I had really never done anything wrong, like drink or smoke. My junior year I wasn't even worried about girls, and I was finally starting on the varsity and considered it a privilege."

Johnson spent a week in the hospital but didn't let his school work go by the wayside.

He said that May 31, he will become the second member of his family to graduate high school, joining older brother, Chris.

"Cedric is a very talented athlete and he really handled the situation well," Parr said. "He came out and supported his teammates and continued working hard in the classroom."

Johnson's focus today is on digital graphics. He said he hopes to attend DeVry University in Oklahoma or Austin and "make movies, video games and cartoons. I've been doing this about a year and enjoy it."

Johnson said his time with the Dons football team remains a wonderful memory.

"What I enjoyed most about Palo Duro High School was football," Johnson said, "because of all my teammates and the coaches. What I learned is, don't ever take anything for granted. Even those long football practices."

Celebrate Education is a yearlong community project to encourage lifelong learning and help raise the education level in the Texas Panhandle.

calendar of events
  • January 11
    Kickoff of 2009 Program
    Find out what Celebrate Education is all about in this special section in your Sunday paper.
  • March 7
    Regional Spelling Bee, West Texas A&M University
    The annual Regional Spelling Bee will feature the top spellers from the Amarillo area. The top five winners will receive scholarship money ranging from $500 to $5,000 and the winner will travel to Washington, D.C., in June to represent the area in the Scripps National Spelling Bee.
  • Spring and Fall
    Amarillo Reads community-wide reading projects.
    Dates and details TBA
  • April
    Amarillo Education Matching Grants Program. Exact date TBA
  • April 10
    What's a Kid to Do Special Section
  • April 12
    What's a Kid to Do at the Amarillo Civic Center
    This event will focus on activities and camps for children to participate in during the summer..
  • May 8-29
    Beating the Odds
    A series of stories published daily in the Amarillo Globe-News during the graduation season that profiles people who have inspiring stories to tell about the degree they are about to receive.
  • May 12
    Ready for the Real World program at Amarillo Civic Center
    AISD juniors get training on what's going to face them in a little more than a year.
  • May 16
    Best and Brightest Special Section
  • May 16
    Best and Brightest Event at West Texas A&M University
  • Fall
    Discover College Day
    Fifth graders from area schools visit college campuses.
  • October 1
    Great Jobs Special Section
    Focusing on well paying jobs available in the area that people may not know about.
  • November 2
    Career Education Special Section
    Focusing on businesses and others in the community helping young people gain a career vision.
  • November
    Yes You Can Event
    Designed to help people gain information about the next level of education from GED to PhD. Date TBA.
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