I was there when Stafon Johnson first spoke publicly after the horrible weight room accident at USC that nearly took his life.
It was inspiring. It was a feel-good moment.
Johnson filed a lawsuit Monday against USC, alleging negligence on behalf of former assistant strength coach Jamie Yanchar and the school for the accident -- a 275-pound bar falling on his throat -- on Sept. 28, 2009.
The story of the incident that has long held sway -- the bar slipped out of Johnson's hand; pure bad luck -- is now different.
"What we say occurred is that the bar was basically knocked out of his hand, causing it to fall on Stafon's neck, almost causing him to die," Johnson's lawyer, Carl Douglas said at a news conference Monday afternoon. "We think for that, those that are responsible should be held responsible for their actions."
Replied USC in a statement:
"USC firmly believes it was not at fault in Stafon Johnson's unfortunate weightlifting accident. We are sorry that Stafon was injured. USC and the entire Trojan Family have been exceptionally supportive of Stafon from the minute the accident occurred. We are disappointed to learn that Stafon has decided to file a lawsuit against USC."
We're not a big fan of lawsuits, but we're not going to judge Johnson. We don't know what happened. We weren't there. He obviously feels wronged. He's suffered plenty. He also went out of his way to say, "This lawsuit does not in any way reduce my love for the cardinal and gold."
Perhaps this will be easy: Multiple witnesses will present the same story, one way or another. But you'd have to doubt that, seeing that things have reached this point. That likely means folks who care about both Johnson and USC will be forced to take sides as they give their take on what happened. You could end up with two Trojans who are friends of Johnson's presenting very different takes.
Or maybe a settlement is reached and things don't get ugly.
That surely would be best for both parties.