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Sunday, January 3, 2010
Johnson to play in Senior Bowl

ESPN.com news services

Less than four months after suffering potentially fatal injuries in a weightlifting accident, USC running back Stafon Johnson has accepted an invitation to play in the Senior Bowl on Jan. 30 in Mobile, Ala.

Johnson's senior season with the Trojans abruptly ended after a weight bar crushed his throat on Sept. 28. He needed seven hours of reconstructive surgery immediately after the accident.

"This is a great opportunity for Stafon with all that he's been through and he's excited to play with some of the greatest players in the country," USC coach Pete Carroll said in a statement. "He's grateful to the Senior Bowl for giving him this chance. He's been a great player for us and everybody is ecstatic about him showing his playing ability there at the Senior Bowl."

Johnson has undergone several operations since leaving the hospital Oct. 14. His right vocal cord was torn away from its mooring and his larynx was crushed, leaving him unable to speak and swallow or eat solid foods. Johnson has since regained both abilities.

According to a release, Johnson was recently cleared for football activities by doctors.

"This decision was made after extensive conversations with Stafon's family, coaches, medical team and personal trainer so that we were assured of his physical conditioning and readiness to participate in the Senior Bowl," Senior Bowl president and CEO Steve Hale said in a statement.

Johnson, a 5-foot-11, 210-pound senior from Compton, Calif., rushed 32 times for 157 yards and five touchdowns this season. He entered the year with 1,395 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns.

Information from ESPN's Shelley Smith and The Associated Press was used in this report.