Kenyon-Wanamingo’s Miracle Boy Micah Johnson
If I were to vote for an athlete of the year in the KDHL listening area my vote would go to Micah Johnson of Kenyon-Wanamingo. Not because of any statistical record or fantastic play on the field or court, but because of his inspiration for all of us concerning the human spirit. Doctors in Rochester have called him their, "miracle boy." They marvel at how far he has come in just a little over seven months time.
The senior from rural Kenyon has had a school year he will never forget. October 11, 2018 he was involved in motor vehicle accident at the intersection of 190th Street and 130th Avenue west of Pine Island. The car he was driving and a pickup driven by 32 year old Gregory Greseth of rural Wanamingo collided. The accident was phoned in at 7:50 a.m. Greseth, a Kenyon-Wanamingo graduate and father of three was pronounced deceased at the scene. Johnson was taken by helicopter to St. Mary's Hospital in Rochester.
That night I was broadcasting a volleyball match at Kenyon-Wanamingo High School. I saw principal Matt Ryan and he didn't have the usual smile he would greet me with on his face. I asked him what was wrong and he said a student was fighting for his life in Rochester. Ryan has a son in the same grade. "He's a really good kid. Was doing chores on a farm before school heading home to get cleaned up to come to school. Why do bad things have to happen to good people," he lamented without saying who the student was.
Before the match Superintendent Jeff Pesta announced the accident saying Kenyon-Wanamingo graduate Greseth was killed and Johnson was in Rochester. He asked for everyone's support for both families. The football seniors were supposed to be honored at the volleyball match but all of them left the match to go to Rochester and be with their friend and teammate. Johnson was a running back, linebacker and punter for the football team. He also participated in basketball and baseball.
During the match one of those sitting in front of me received a text from someone in Rochester erroneously saying Johnson had passed away. That's how touch and go it was those first few days following the accident.
Greseth was laid to rest the next week with military honors. He was studying to be a nurse after being honorably discharged from the Air Force following service from 2006 to 2014.
Every coach of Micah's I spoke with over the next few weeks had the same things to say about him. "Good kid. Great teammate. Hard working, determined, a fighter. Very coachable. Will do anything for the team."
The football team was playing in St. Clair the next night. The team decided that is what Micah would have wanted. The Cyclones agreed on the first play of the game to join the Knights in having 10 men on the field signifying the absence of their teammate. The team also wore MJ6 (his uniform number) on their helmets. #MicahStrong bracelets were sold to show support for the young man. Cheerleaders had #MicahStrong posters at the rest of their football and volleyball contests.
The extent of Johnson's injuries were horrific. Doctors had to remove a lung in their first surgery. Many broken bones were suffered. His right arm was completely crushed. He still does not have usage of that arm.
Monday night I traveled to Houston to broadcast the Kenyon-Wanamingo baseball game with the Hurricanes of Houston. It was the final game of the regular season for both teams. Johnson moved to the Kenyon-Wanamingo school district from Houston his sophomore season. I remember seeing him playing baseball that spring and was impressed by his abilities.
I asked K-W Head Coach Kirby VanDewalker to join Micah and me for an interview. I thought Micah might be more comfortable with the coach being there. Micah told me he was bummed initially leaving his friends in Houston to go to rural Kenyon to live but it didn't take long for him to make new friends. VanDewalker recalled as the Junior Varsity coach at the time it was obvious the young man had the skills to play varsity. After two JV games he was brought up to the varsity to play.
VanDewalker recalled one of his first memories of Micah was in a phys ed class shortly after moving to the district when he, "took down Coach Lurken on a collision playing Ultimate Frisbee and I knew Micah was all business from there."
Micah told me baseball was his favorite sport and during his hours and hours of rehabilitation following the accident just over seven months ago his motivation was to be able to play in a baseball game. He wanted to accomplish that goal and did.
I have to admit I don't know Micah Johnson very well but I was a little emotional when I saw him take left field in the final inning of the 13-1 win over Houston Monday night. I was told he also got to play in right field the last inning of one of the final home games in Wanamingo. Keep in mind his athletic career began in Houston.
VanDewalker agreed with me that baseball was Micah's best sport, "He definitely has some skills but he has something I don't think you can teach. The mentality of a warrior. He gets in front of the ball whenever, dives whenever he has to. He's still sliding around on his knees at practice. It's fun to see him get back on the field and compete the best he can."
Micah said it was "tough not being able to play football and basketball. I always loved playing basketball. I always told my physical therapist how I really wanted to get in at least for a little bit in baseball. Catch a pop fly or something. So I was motivated to work toward that and pushed myself to do a bunch of physical therapy stuff so I could participate."
VanDewalker said, "Micah is here today because of how strong he is mentally and physically. Every day we get to see him in school he's got that smile on his face still. He still likes to give you a little hard time every now and then so it's good to have him around. We're just thankful he's doing better."
I can't imagine how difficult the rehabilitation was for Micah Johnson and he still has some work to do. I asked him if he could put into words how difficult it was undergoing all the surgeries and then the rehabilitation and all the days and nights in the hospital and he said, "I'm not a fan of it. I always had visitors come. My parents, friends, family, all loved ones came and visited me so that was nice. I want to thank all the supporters I had. I want to thank people for all the meals they provided my family while I was out and all the money people donated and just for their support."
Micah is unsure of his future plans, "It depends when and how well my arm will work. Right now I'm going to start training in for walking turkey barns next to my house. That's pretty good pay and flexible hours."
The prognosis concerning the usage of his right arm, "They did surgery on my bicep and said it could take six months to a year to work. My shoulder they haven't done anything yet. They're not sure if they will. Just cuz it's too risky they say. I should be able to bend my elbow but not sure about my shoulder yet." Micah loved milking cows but says that's difficult now.
Before the accident Micah said he "planned to farm for a little bit and then maybe go into the military but I can't really go into the military now so that's out of the picture." He hopes to be able to farm for a living.
VanDewalker was an assistant football coach, a head basketball coach and assistant and head baseball coach with Johnson on those teams and says he's almost spent more time with him than his own children. "When Micah went down it was a really rough patch and then every time you'd go and see him he'd be doing a little better and he'd be wearing his Boston Red Sox shirt and his Philadelphia Eagles shirts and give you a hard time about how their seasons were going. You know his hard work, his relentlessness and his positive attitude have gotten him to where he is today plus the grace of God. I'm just thankful he's still here and we have the connection we do."
VanDewalker then shared a story he said that would tell us what kind of a person Micah Johnson is. "He didn't go out for Legion ball the summer following his sophomore season so after his junior year I said Micah you've got to play Legion in the summer. He said alright, I'm going to get up extra early milk the cows in the morning instead of doing it at night and I'm going to get to Legion ball. He did. I don't know how many kids would rearrange their schedule for that. To get up so early in the morning work has hard has he does."