Everyone makes mistakes. Sure, some are more condemning than others, but human beings can always work to get beyond them. That’s no longer the case for 17-year-old Billey Joe Johnson, one of the nation’s top underclassmen running backs who died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound after being pulled over by a traffic patrol officer in Northeast Mississippi early Monday morning. Forget layoffs and economic distress, this is about as depressing as you can possibly get.
How big a loss is Johnson to the sporting world? Well, the odds are that in the coming years you would have learned a lot more about him. The junior was being recruited by just about every school in the SEC, and he had scholarship offers from Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, LSU, Ole Miss and Mississippi State, among others.
Police are keeping quiet about whether Johnson’s death was a suicide or a pure accident, but an accidental shooting that instantly kills him (i.e., that hits his head or carotid artery) with a shotgun seems like a major leap of faith. After all, he was either wielding or moving a shotgun, and the fact that he had a shotgun sitting in the front of his truck would lead one to believe he had a pretty good idea of how to safely operate one.
According to the ASSOCIATED PRESS, we may not know any more about Johnson’s motivation for awhile.
Needless to say, Johnson’s coaches and the entire area which watched the running back emerge as a transcendent regional star finds itself in an utter state of shock.
“We’re just in shock,” George County Assistant Football Coach Darwin Nelson said. “To say that he had a world of potential would be one of the biggest understatements of the century. I just can’t explain this. … Us coaches need some counseling too, I guess.”
We can’t explain it either. Neither can anyone else, for that matter.
Johnson was a prolific talent, finishing his three-year high school career with more than 4,000 rushing yards while almost single-handedly leading George County High School to the Class 5A State Championship Game in 2007. His team lost there, and they never really recovered in 2008, finishing 6-6 with a first round playoff exit, not that the lesser results scared college coaches away from chasing after him. Johnson also started on the George County baseball team, and his athletic talent might have made him a prospect for the minor leagues in the future.
No more, thanks to one rash move after being pulled over by the cops. Take note kids, and whatever you do, please don’t try this at home.