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Pain means little to gradBy 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.
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