Just three weeks ago today, Ardmore sophomore Daniel Johnson was roaming the sidelines as a part of the football team.

Just three weeks ago today, Ardmore sophomore Daniel Johnson was roaming the sidelines as a part of the football team.

Today, Johnson is at OU Medical Center in Oklahoma City. While his teammates prepare for the most important game of their season against Duncan on Friday, Johnson is miles away as a representation of how precious the opportunity to suit up can be.

Two days after the Tigers thumped Durant at Homecoming, Johnson was in a utility vehicle accident on Oct. 8. The accident cost Johnson, 15, not just his season, but his left arm, which had to be amputated just above the elbow.

The tragedy, however, hasn’t robbed Johnson of his spirit. Despite undergoing what his father, James, said were six to seven surgeries since the accident, Daniel has kept a positive outlook throughout.

“He’s really been for the most part super positive,” James said Tuesday. “It’s been a pleasant surprise. He’s done really well with the cards dealt to him.”

On Friday, quarterback Travis Galbreath will wear Johnson’s No. 22 as a tribute. He’ll be the third Ardmore player in as many weeks to honor Johnson. Sophomore Jamarcus Mills wore No. 22 against Capitol Hill and Ashdon Perry ran for a career-high 122 yards last week while wearing Johnson’s jersey. The No. 22 is also painted on the field at Noble Stadium.

Mills, who was riding with Johnson in northwest Ardmore’s Dornick Hills area when the accident occurred, said his good friend and classmate hasn’t changed. Mills said the two were riding together in the two-seat, four-wheel vehicle when they hit a bump in a hill and the UTV flipped.

“When I helped him up, he was calm and joking around. I guess he was in shock,” Mills said. “I saw him last Saturday and he’s still the same person.”

According to his father, the surgery to finally take Johnson’s arm was last Wednesday, Oct. 19. James Johnson said he’s hurt for his son’s sports related dreams, but appreciative of the support of the Ardmore team and the school.

James said he expects Daniel could be released some time next week, depending on how he’s healing.

“He’s encouraged by the fact that a lot of people have been wearing his jersey,” James said. “Coach (Douglas) Wendel and a lot of players have been very supportive.”

Wendel, who went to visit Daniel on the day of the Capitol Hill game Oct. 13, said Johnson was in “incredible spirits.” The first-year coach was sent back to the Tigers with a special message from Johnson.

Five days removed from his life-altering moment, Johnson asked Wendel to take out a piece of paper. He then asked his coach to to give the team the dictionary definition of a tiger, then Johnson gave Wendel his own definition.

“Loyalty, staying together with your family,” Johnson said Tuesday on the phone. “That’s what being a Tiger’s all about. To be fierce, unstoppable.”

Johnson optimism overwhelms the conversation. On the lighter side, the wide receiver/defensive back talked about the High Definition television in his hospital room and how he watched Oklahoma lost to Texas Tech last Saturday. He hopes to make it to Ardmore’s final regular season home game next week against Altus.

As if the Tigers needed any more motivation against rival Duncan, they’ll also have Johnson in their minds on Friday — and for the rest of the season.

“Now I have the mindset that I’ve got more to play for,” said senior wide receiver Tyler Dickson, who lined up against Johnson regularly in passing drills. “I never thought I’d be in the situation where I’d have to play for a teammate.

“Now, when we go out, all we think about is we’ve got to represent how he would want us to represent.”

Erik K. Horne