As I’m sure you’ve all heard by now, former Gator football player Chris “Juice” Johnson has committed suicide by shooting himself in the head. He was 22.
Johnson was mostly a special teams player in his two years at Florida in 2011-12. Most notably, he responsible for scooping up a fumble on a kickoff against South Carolina and returning it down to the goal line and nearly scoring. (Florida scored a touchdown anyway.)
But Johnson got into a fight with Will Muschamp following his personal foul in the 2013 Sugar Bowl, and Muschamp drove him out of the Florida program. Johnson then transferred to Duquesne, where he had 10 tackles this past season.
And then, just like that, he’s gone.
Several ex-teammates of his spoke to me about him. The unanimous opinion was that Juice was a breath of fresh air and a ray of sunshine, a guy that could make anybody smile at any given time. He wasn’t just a happy guy, he was a source of happiness for others around him. To say news of his death was devastating to his teammates is an understatement. Chris Rainey literally refused to believe me when I first told him what had happened- because he didn’t want to believe it. Nobody really does.
But it goes to show that depression is a serious issue that can affect anyone. People say that all the time, but you don’t really understand a sentence like that, which has unfortunately become a cliche- you can’t- until something like this happens.
And now, it’s too late for Chris- but not for anybody else.
If you are struggling, make sure you seek help. It is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength. Talk to someone, anyone, if you need to. Whoever you are, there are people who most certainly would care if you did something to yourself. And you know what? I’m one of them.
Never assume somebody is OK, because they may not be. Never be afraid to ask if somebody is OK, because they may tell you that you’re not. Never indicate that it’s a sign of weakness for somebody not to be OK, because they may not be and then take unfortunate action based on your indication.
Be careful with your words. We’re all a Gator family, and we’ve lost a brother. Let’s do our best to make sure something like this never happens again.