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
Johnson’s coaches had high praises
“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.”