MONTEVIDEO, Minn. (WCCO) — A senior from Montevideo will be playing in the state tennis tournament this week. While that’s an accomplishment, it’s even more amazing to know he made it to state — on one leg.
“I never let it hold me back. I always worked to be the best athlete I could be,” said senior Eric Johnson.
From a distance you may not know what Eric is talking about. But up close tells a different story. It’s a story that began when Eric was just 5-years-old.
“Went home and he said ‘Hey dad, I just learned to ride a bike.’ I said, ‘Great Eric!’ And then I walked in the house because we were packing to go to the lake and all of a sudden he got hit by the van,” said Eric’s dad and coach Mark Johnson.
Eric was crossing an alley when the driver of a van ran over his left foot. The injury was so severe, his foot had to be amputated and he received a prosthetic.
But instead of feeling bad, Eric began looking for inspiration. And he found it in former Major League baseball pitcher Jim Abbott who was born without a right hand.
“One quote that I like that he said is, ‘It’s not your disability that defines you, it’s how you deal with that disability,'” said Eric.
For the past 13 years, Eric has more than dealt with it — he’s made it irrelevant. He played safety and quarterback on the football team, guard on the basketball team, he wakeboards and even gave surfing a shot during a family vacation.
“Honestly, you forget about it. He’s just overcome everything and you don’t even realize it. He’s that special,” said his sister, Carrie Johnson.
This spring Eric has added to that list of special accomplishments. He and his doubles partner Jesse Brace won their section tournament and qualified for state.
“Sometimes it’s the journey … It’s the journey of getting there and I just thought back to all the things he’s gone through and I didn’t move for quite a while,” said Mark.
“I honestly don’t know how he does it because he’s still real athletic for just having only one leg. It’s indescribable playing with him,” said doubles partner, Jesse.
No matter what happens at the state tournament, this is likely just the first step into a long list of goals Eric plans on reaching.
“Set your goals high and never quite working for them. Work as hard as you can and anything can happen,” Eric said.
Eric had a 3.9 grade point average as a senior at Montevideo and will be studying engineering at Iowa State in the fall.
He credits his parents, his brother and sister and, of course, his doubles partner, for helping him accomplish his goal of making it to state.