Raising the bar

The NFL Combine is a time for draft prospects to impress professional scouts with their 40-yard dash times, broad jump heights, and bench press reps of 225 pounds.

For most NFL hopefuls, the performance put on by one halfback inside the weight room at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on Saturday afternoon would typically be considered mediocre and uninspiring.

But as former USC running back Stafon Johnson lifted the bench press bar that almost took his life back in September, the number of times he lifted it in the air became far less significant than the mere fact that he was there.

In the five-month comeback since a freak weight room accident crushed his larynx and threatened his life, Johnson’s recovery has been nothing short of miraculous. From the determination in his whisper back in December, to the strength in his step at January’s Senior Bowl, to the passion he exhibited during his 13 reps on the bench press Saturday.

No one knows where the Trojans’  leading rusher from 2008 will end up in April’s draft, but one thing is for sure, whoever ends up drafting him is getting a rare individual — the kind whose greatest talents can’t be measured with a stop watch or measuring stick.

To measure the Compton native’s heart through a few numbers and statistics fails to really evaluate the heart and mind of an athlete whose sole presence on a football field is a victory of unimaginable proportions.

His 13 reps on the bench press were far fewer than the leading running back at the Combine (Ben Tate of Auburn had 26), but where he lacked in quantity, he made up for with an intangible that won’t likely make on the scouts’ reports: courage.