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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California

Stafon Speaks

Stafon Johnson speaks to the public for the first time.

It's been almost two months since Stafon Johnson's accident in the weight room.  No one other than his doctors and family have heard him talk until today.  Forty-five minutes before kickoff Saturday, Johnson whispered the last words his grandfather said to him.  "God has a plan.  Run Stafon run."  His mother Kim Mallory said these words mean exactly what they say.  "God has a plan.  I don't know what it is, but he has a plan for Stafon.  And with his plan, he's going to run to be the Stafon we used to know and love." 

Johnson dropped a weight on his throat September 28th while bench pressing.  He underwent seven hours of surgery to reconstruct his larynx.  Since then, he's had 3 more surgeries to help reconstruct his voice box and allow him to swallow normally and breath on his own.  Johnson's recovery also involves an intensive rehabilitation program.  "[It] is focused on 3 areas his speech, his swallowing and his breathing.  We have a voice specialist who works with him on his voice and swallowing, and he's had multiple procedures to prevent scar tissue from building up."

Doctors say the running back has made great progress.  Johnson isn't taking pain medication anymore and doesn't have a feeding or tracheostomy tube.  He's able to breath and swallow on his own and is eating solid foods.  And as witnessed today, the running back has begun to regain vocal function.  However, he must keep his speaking to a minimum.   

His mother says it was very overwhelming to hear him speak for the first time since the accident.  "Just to whisper was like he was giving an interview.  That was a big thing cause it wasn't expected.  Any type of sound for a while."

Doctors say Johnson will be able to give a full interview in the future, but that date is still uncertain.

Katia Castorena, Jonathan Kendrick, Lysee Mitri, and Stephen Zelezny contributed to this report.

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