Another 'blessing' for Inky Johnson

Inky Johnson has already left a lasting impression on so many at the University of Tennessee. Turns out the former Vols cornerback-turned-coach is pretty good at first impressions, too.

In just a few short months, Johnson won over Tennessee's new coaching staff and landed a spot as a graduate assistant coach this season under defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin - the same guy who hired a young Pete Carroll as his defensive GA at Arkansas in the 1970s.

"It's a blessing," Johnson said Thursday. "It's a great opportunity just to be around those guys. You learn so much from them every day."

The focus for Johnson, who spent last season as a student assistant coach, is to soak up as much as possible this season from UT's new coaching staff. This year, he'll not only be able to give on-field coaching, he'll be allowed to sit in on meetings and help dissect film. Though he'll be working primarily with defense, Johnson he wants to absorb as much as he can about all facets of the game in his first real coaching job.

But Johnson has already doled out plenty of inspiration.

After suffering a severe injury to his right arm during the second game of his junior season in 2006, he's undergone several surgeries to repair nerve and muscle damage. He still follows a physical therapy regimen every day to improve his movement and strength.

Later this month, he'll return to the Mayo Clinic for another follow-up appointment. Johnson still wears a sling on his right arm, but that belies the amount of physical progress he's made some 2 1/2 years later.

"My arm is doing good," Johnson said, smiling. "It's still a slow process. I'm getting stronger, I'm getting movement back. It's way better than before. God's just healing my body every day, like I said from the beginning. I know in the end, I'm going to be all right."

Johnson, who started eight games during his UT career, didn't take long to adjust, and he gives much of the credit for his positive attitude to his family and his faith.

That attitude is readily apparent in his response to a question about the last two years. If the answer came from anyone else, though, it would be a bit unexpected.

"It's just been a great experience," Johnson says. "God has blessed me to wake up every day and enjoy life, and so I'm making the most of it."

His former teammates and coaches, though, will tell you that's just Inky.

Hand him a pile of lemons, and he won't just make lemonade. He'll whip up a lemon merengue pie and anything else you can think of.

Limit the use of his right arm and hand, and he'll keep on smiling and shake your left hand instead.

Give him a chance to learn from a coach like Monte Kiffin and his staff, and who knows how far he'll go.

"Every chance I get to get up there on that board and learn some plays or get in that playbook and learn some plays or break down film with those guys and learn something new, I take heed to it," he says. "It's a great opportunity."

It will be yet another opportunity for UT's players to learn from Johnson, too.

Defensive end Robert Ayers shed his reputation as a trouble-maker during his first few years on campus to become a team captain and first-team All-SEC selection as a senior. In April, Ayers will likely be the first UT player taken in the NFL draft.

During SEC Media Days last summer, Ayers credited Johnson for much of his turnaround both on the field and off.

"He's a special person," said Ayers, who also roomed with Johnson last year. "He's an inspiration for all of us to want to do good."

He certainly can do some good this season.

Already a trusted mentor to many of UT's players, especially on defense, Johnson could prove to be useful ally as first-year UT coach Lane Kiffin tries to get players to buy into a new way of doing things.

"I think I can help them out a lot," Johnson says. "If you don't believe in what you're doing, you won't accomplish anything. You've got to believe in what you're doing to get something done. The guys know that."

And as for Lane Kiffin, it didn't take long to learn what many around UT's program have known about Johnson for a long time.

"This guy's unbelievable," Kiffin said. "To talk about what we want to be as a team - you're always competing, you're always fighting - what a great example. Not one day does he come around complaining about his arm. Everything's about what he can do.

"I'm so glad that he's representing us."

Drew Edwards covers University of Tennessee football. He may be reached at 865-342-6274.

Get Copyright Permissions © 2009, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
Want to use this article? Click here for options!

© 2009 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Related Links

Comments » 43

Phowell23 writes:

Great for Inky and UT!

papavol writes:


Ironcity writes:

Good to have someone the players can relate to and look up to. Good job coach!

johnlg00 writes:

Every team should have a dozen like Inky but any team should be grateful to have even one! He has a lot of wonderful experiences to look forward to, because he will make a positive out of everything that happens around him. We could all learn valuable lessons from him!

westennvol writes:

Great young man! Good luck Inky! He is what WE WANT AT UT! Top notch guy with class!

smashmouth98 writes:

Good Stuff!!!

tinknoz#660213 writes:

we love ya Inky! Congrats

teampenny#658108 writes:

Good to have some UT family on board Go Vols

johnsoncityvol writes:

Good to have some UT blood on the staff.

tums writes:


Seriouslyorange writes:

Life is great at UT
Great HC
Great DC
Great RC
Great GA
Great AC's
Great players!!!
How can we not be super come FOOTBALL TIME IN TENNESSEE!!!
Go Vols!!
Good luck to Inky, an inspiration to every true Volunter!

Einstein writes:

At some time in the future, Inky will be the head coach at some university on the way up.

jobrando#216494 writes:

There has been a major truce between KNS and the University.
These articles for the past few days have been a pleasure to read. Keep them coming.

ThurmondEppy writes:

in response to Witch_Doctor:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Star Trek's Dr. McCoy was often called "Bones" - and you're right, never once did he prevaricate.

suPEARLman writes:

Nice read.

Learn all you can Inky and keep moving your way up the UT coaching ladder.

allvol9 writes:

Wow....absolutely the best news for UT football. Classy guy and a wonderful mentor the the team. I am also so proud that our new staff saw in Inky what everyone else has known....they don't come any better than Inky. Congratulations!

troubleinc writes:

Inky Johnson is a class act, couldn't be happier for him. Good luck with the rehab and the GA job Inky.

OrangeHammer writes:

Congrat's Inky. You were a heck of a player and you'll be a heck of a coach. Keep'em on their toes and keep their head's out of their you know what's. GET AFTER'EM COACH!!!

The OrangeHammer has spoken...

TommyJack writes:

Great story

TommyJack writes:

in response to VolunteerFear:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

That case has already been proven.

798orange writes:

I sure am glad we hired him. With his attitude and outlook on life he has inspired others and will continue to have an even greater positive impact on our program.

tennesseebee writes:

Way to go, Inky! It's great to keep you as a Volunteer.We know you will represent us well in whatever you do.

yeavols#228407 writes:

I thought Walter would take a break on this dice..I wonder if a story on the Pre-Colombian empires (Incas, Aztecs, or Mayans)growing chocolate beans in Latin America and their currency exchange rate would deter the troll? naaaa...wouldn't work...

yeavols#228407 writes:

in response to VolunteerFear:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Ok any story that starts with Gatorj--- is ok with me..BUHAHAHAHAHAHAHA..

rab63 writes:

It is going to be so refreshing this year to watch a U.T. football game and not know what play is coming next.

GerryOP writes:

Hey zzgatorboy, do you get the feeling you have worn out your welcome at GVX? Take the hint... AMF!

219 -- Fear The Kiffin...

GerryOP writes:

Props to Inky! Inky, you have earned every blessing bestowed upon you. Go forth and do well. God bless...

yeavols#228407 writes:

memphis..put down the glue...step away from your keyboard..I repeat...step back from the keyboard and breathe deeply...let free flowing gasses especially oxygen come to the brain. dial 911 if you need assistance..

txvolsfan writes:

in response to gatorzz:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

If you knew anything about the program you would know that Majors will not speak to or about Phil except to call him Benedict Arnold. He still thinks Phil went behind his back when he had his heart attack and truth beknown, He did.

Laydbakvol writes:

in response to GOTGO:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Get a grip Memphistomb. In case you didn't get the message from the last "article" readers wanted more background on this inspiring story. Thanks for listening Drew.

FlaVol2 writes:

Way to go Inky!!!

hotrodvol writes:

in response to tinknoz#660213:

we love ya Inky! Congrats


utmdm writes:

Good move. Go Inky

pj_ladyvolnMI writes:

This is great for Inky, great for the program, and great for the players who will be influenced by him for years to come on and off the field. Congrats, Inky...and thanks, Lane!

elizabethtonvol72 writes:

Keep trusting in the Lord Inky! You have a very bright future ahead of you, in anything you do. You will be in my prayers..

Jetsavol writes:

Happy Birthday Ink! Good article for your birthday!

Mobbdeep4life writes:

Excellent article about a young man who is truly an inspiration. He has shown that having faith gives you the courage to overcome any obstacle. Hopefully current and future players will learn positive life lessons from this young man. I remember hearing about his injury and I always wondered what happened to him. Glad to see he is still a part of UT football.

iwilbeafan writes:

in response to txvolsfan:

If you knew anything about the program you would know that Majors will not speak to or about Phil except to call him Benedict Arnold. He still thinks Phil went behind his back when he had his heart attack and truth beknown, He did.

Are you just running your mouth again or do you have proof of what you accuse

jimvols13 writes:

Yes, Inky is the man. I'll never forget the ovation he got on senior day. I wish him all the best. I hope he is able to parlay this experience towards opening up greater coaching opportunities for himself (hopefully at UT!). A true Volunteer. Go Vols, and Go Inky.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

Wow. Great article. The human interest side is left out too often. Winning is more than on the field. I like Kiffin's response.

The_the writes:

Nice story. WDE!

PoochPuntOn3rdDown writes:

in response to gatorzz:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Good try, but you're still a douche hole. March 1, 2009 can't come soon enough. Getting our 20th win against Florrible will be really, really special for me and the rest of your fans on here...

easleychuck writes:

in response to VolunteerFear:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

did you get a kiss?

Want to participate in the conversation? Become a subscriber today. Subscribers can read and comment on any story, anytime. Non-subscribers will only be able to view comments on select stories.