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K-State basketball player earns ‘Never Broken’ award

By Sgt. Daniel Stoutamire | 2ND ABCT PUBLIC AFFAIRS | May 19, 2014

MANHATTAN – D.J. Johnson said he believes in always showing up and giving his best, even if his body has placed physical limitations on him.

It’s that attitude that earned him the “Never Broken” award April15 at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.

The Kansas State University Men’s Basketball Team hosted a banquet as part of its end-of-season activities.

The award has been presented annually for the last four years – except when deployments intervene – on behalf of Soldiers with the 1st Battalion, 7th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division.

The battalion presents the award annually to the player who best exemplifies the spirit of the unit’s motto, “Never broken by hardship or battle.”

“I think of (being never broken) as always dressing out, always being ready to play, whether you’re 30 percent (healthy) or 100 percent, you’re always playing the game,” said Johnson, a sophomore forward. “I think that’s what I did this year.”

Lt. Col. John Mountford, commander, “First Lightning” Battalion said the award isn’t given just for basketball skill, but for resolve in the face of adversity.

“It’s that commitment to excellence that you all bring to the court and the coaching staff teaches you on a day-to-day basis,” Mountford said. “It’s an award for courage and perseverance on the court and off.”

Johnson struggled with injuries all season. It was only as the season drew to a close with a loss to the eventual national runners-up – the University of Kentucky – in the NCAA tournament that the full extent of his ailment was discovered.

“He played hurt all year, not knowing until the last game that he had a stress fracture in his foot,” said 1st Sgt. Sean Dewitt, senior noncommissioned officer, Company G, 1st Bn., 7th FA Regt. “So he was injured, and he kept playing.”

Dewitt likened that determination to that of Soldiers.

“That’s what Soldiers do,” he said. If they “get injured in battle, they continue to fight until they can’t fight anymore, and that’s what he did this year.”

The battalion has a strong partnership with the team, which includes yearly visits by each organization to the other. Recently, the battalion’s Soldiers and their families attended a team practice and played pickup games against the Wildcat players, and the basketball team visited Fort Riley’s helicopter simulators to get a taste of Army life.

“It’s always good to look back and see these guys in uniform behind our bench,” Johnson said of the First Lightning Soldiers who regularly attend home games. “When you don’t always have family there, and you (are from) far away, it’s always good to see them back there.”

Johnson’s coaches had high praises for him.

“I tend to love kids who don’t always get the recognition, but come to work every day, and D.J. is that kind of guy,” said K-State Men’s Basketball Team assistant coach Chester Frazier. “Everything is ‘yes sir,’ ‘no sir,’ no questions asked. He’d run through a wall for us.”
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