The story of Inky Johnson is one which is pretty much summed up in the following bible verse; Jeremiah 29:11(NIV) – For I know the plans I have for you, “declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”. This happens to be Inky Johnson’s favorite bible scripture and it encapsulates the amazing story that is his life.
Inky Johnson’s life has been a tumultuous yet wonderful journey of faith that has left people inspired, motivated and empowered, translating to an enormous belief in God’s higher plan and purpose for each and every one of us.
Inquoris “Inky” Johnson was born into poverty and lack. Like the average African-American stereotype, his mom was an adolescent (16 years old) when she gave birth to him on the 12th of February 1986 in the ghetto and gang populated region of Kirkland, southeast Atlanta. He grew up in the same town of Kirkland, living in his grandma’s house along with 12 other people in a 2 bedroom apartment and had to make do with a pallet for a bed.
Along with this very uncomfortable living arrangement, Inky Johnson had to deal with some level of instability as his large family moved 5 times in 9 years in search of a Kirkland neighborhood that was a bit free from drugs, gangbanging, and violence. Skipping meals was a perpetual occurrence for him and his mom had to work long hours at Wendy’s to cater for him.
These awful life experiences made Inky Johnson a resilient and defiant young man with an excellent work ethic. At an early age of 7, Inky had already discovered his footballing talent and did extra training drills after other kids had gone home to improve his skills while waiting for his mom to pick him up from the training pitch. Inky Johnson was determined to become the first person in his family to have a college degree and he knew the only way he could afford to go to college was through a sports scholarship, so he put in a lot of effort while he was at Alonzo A. Crim Open Campus High School to get noticed by scouts against all odds.
Inky Johnson eventually got noticed by University of Tennessee scouts and was awarded a full scholarship and went on to become a vital member of the University’s football team. Although he played the cornerback position, he was versatile as described by his coach Phillip Fulmer and could fit into any position required by his coach despite his small stature. At that time, he had a weight of 163 pounds and he was 5 feet 9 inches tall.
Inky Johnson Football Career
Everything seemed perfect, he was in college on scholarship playing the sport which he loved and doing extremely well at it. He hit a career-high of 30 tackles, a sack, and 8 passes broken up in 2005. Inky was told by one of his coaches that he would definitely make the first 30 NFL draft list, all he had to do was play the remaining 10 games of the season and he would be faced with a multimillion NFL contract; nothing could go wrong.
However, disaster struck on the 9th of September 2006, the Volunteers (University of Tennessee’s football team) were leading in the second game of the remaining 10 of the season against Airforce at the Neyland Stadium. Inky attempted a routine tackle on the incoming Airforce running back Justin Handley and this will end up being the last tackle he will make for the Volunteers. He lunged into Justin with his right shoulder and the impact left him unconscious on the ground with drooping eyelids. This is a nerve damage symptom referred to as Horner’s Syndrome which was noticed by the University of Tennessee football team’s doctor, Dr. Russ Betcher.
The End Of His Football Career
Inky was rushed to UT Medical Centre where it was confirmed that the impact of the tackle had practically shattered all the nerves that connected his right hand to his spine. The impact destroyed the subclavian artery in his chest and left him with a torn shoulder ligament. Inky was bleeding internally and would have died if the main artery on his right leg was not surgically re-routed to his right arm to remedy the internal bleeding.
After the surgery, Inky Johnson was left with 5 permanently damaged nerves that could not be remedied and wrapped up in bandages held together with 350 staples highlighting the severity of his surgical cuts. Inky was happy to be alive but was left distraught when he was eventually told by the doctor that he would never be able to use his right hand again, hence his football career had come to a premature end.
Passion To Succeed
Nevertheless, inky picked himself and told the doctor that he will use his paralyzed right hand to inspire people every day as long as there is breath in his lungs. The doctor also told Inky that he would need at least 40 days to fully recover from his surgery wounds. However, Inky miraculously recovered within 3 days and left the clinic with nothing but his dogged resilience and burning passion to succeed despite his quagmire.
Inky Johnson returned to school a week later to continue his education and fulfill his life-long dream/ambition of being the first college degree holder in his family. He graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and went on to earn a Master’s degree in Sports Psychology, both from the University of Tennessee.
An Amazing Story Of Faith
After his education, Inky decided to write a book detailing his life experiences with the aim of motivating and inspiring people to keep driving against all odds. His book was titled Inky: An Amazing Story of Faith and Perseverance and was a huge success selling thousands of copies. It received positive reviews and led to him getting several invitations to speak in churches, schools, and executive events.
Although Inky Johnson never planned to be a motivational speaker or inspirational speaker as he prefers to be called because he believes motivation is getting people to do what they do not want to do while inspiration, on the other hand, is encouraging/empowering people to be the best that they can be, reaching their full potential.
Light At The End Of The Tunnel
God had pre-ordained it to be so and his seemingly unfortunate accident was an integral/vital part of God’s intricate plan for his life. Inky Johnson now speaks at an average of 250 events in a year, which proves that the world had been waiting for him to drop the football and pick up a microphone.
Inky is still very active in the NFL and still has a lot of influence. After his injury he continued to train with his teammates, inspiring and motivating them to give their best in every game because it might just be their last. He also mentors less-privileged youths in Knoxville and Atlanta who have dreams and aspirations of being in the NFL.
Every day Inky Johnson sends over a 100 text messages with words of encouragement and inspiration to his friends in the NFL, former teammates, current UT players and the youths in Knoxville and Atlanta that he mentors. Inky’s influence in the NFL is further reiterated by the fact that he is currently being immortalized by Kansas City Safety, Eric Berry.
Eric Berry has been quoted saying that he owes his successful career to his friend and mentor, Inky Johnson. He says Inky is his constant source of inspiration and motivation and this relationship has spurred him to become the NFL superstar that he is today. To honor Inky, Eric decided to take up the number 29 when he was drafted into the NFL (this happens to be Inky’s former number) and whenever he puts on his jersey and heads out into the midfield, he constantly reminds the world of the epitome of inspiration that is Inky Johnson.
Inky Johnson would, however, take to the field one more time in 2011 during an NFL game when he was made an NFL legacy for his enormous contributions to the NFL.
Johnson is happily married to his high school sweetheart, Allison and they have two kids; a daughter named Jada and a son named Inky Jr. The couple got married on the 29th of April 2011 and have enjoyed a blissful union for about 7 years now. They have a foundation called “The Inky and Allison Foundation” which provides underprivileged kids with back to school kits as a means of giving back to the community.
It’s Not About The Product But The Process
A popular “Ink-spiration” quote; “it’s not about the product but the process” has been a vital ideology that Inky Johnson as held on to and admonished others to do as well. This is because if Inky had only been concerned with the product of a multimillion NFL contract that he would have signed before his accident struck, he would have completely given up hope and probably remained in a constant state of despondency, dereliction, and depression. But because he was an ardent believer in the process he saw his life experiences and disappointments for what they were, a means to a better and more fulfilling end.
Inky Johnson believes we have all been placed by God on this earth to in our unique way; impact, inspire, encourage, and empower each other and that our background and life struggles are not meant to discourage or deter us but on the contrary are meant to lead us to our unique places of purpose. That is why it behooves me at this point to say that the onus is on each and every one of us to refuse to let our circumstances or predicaments negatively affect our purpose and destiny. We should be dogged in our approach to life and be determined to succeed no matter what life may throw at us.