September 9, 2006. It started as a normal college football game in Neyland Stadium. If anything, the event was an afterthought, dropped into the schedule at the last minute.
For Inky Johnson, though, the game changed everything. A routine tackle turned into a life-threatening injury, and nothing has been normal for Inky ever since. Not with a paralyzed right arm. Not with daily pain. Not with constant physical challenges. His dream had always been to play professional sports. You might think his injury would have destroyed his motivation and crushed his spirit. But that’s only because you don’t know Inky.
Who is Inquoris “Inky” Johnson? He could be described as the survivor of an underprivileged past. He could be described as a refugee of poverty and violence. But if you look deeper, you’ll discover something else. You’ll see a man who looks in the face of defeat and says, “Am I really failing, or is God prevailing?” And you’ll be inspired by his relentless determination. Inky has a master’s degree in sports psychology from the University of Tennessee. He devotes much of his time to mentoring athletes and underprivileged youth. He and his amazing wife Allison live in Atlanta, Georgia with their beautiful children, Jada and Inky Jr.
Donald North joined Backfield in Motion in 2010. Donald’s mother, Renee signed him up for academic support and to make new friends. With the help of Backfield in Motion’s teachers and coordinators, Donald excelled in class as an honor student at head Middle School. Donald also excelled in athletics winning a basketball and football championship with his Rose Park Raiders team. As a senior at East Nashville High School, Donald played quarterback for the Eagles football team and served as Vice-President of the Beta Sigma Club and was a member of the National Honor Society. Donald attends Edmondson Chapel Church where he serves on the Usher Board and the Media Ministry. Donald also works part-time for Kroger’s. Donald will graduate this may with a 3.5 grade point average and a 21 on the ACT. He will attend Middle Tennessee State University as a Hope Scholar. Donald received a scholarship from Phi Beta Sigma fraternity, he will be the first in his family to attend college.
Heart of a Champion
Jason Rogers is a true competitor. He competes in numerous Special Olympic sports: track and field, swimming, flag football, volleyball, basketball, bocce and snow skiing. Jason was named Special Olympics Region 4 Athlete of the Year 2012; State Gold Medalist in Alpine Skiing Slalom 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2016; State Gold Medalist in Alpine Skiing Giant Slalom 2012, 2013 and 2014; State Bronze Medalist in Alpine Skiing Giant Slalom 2016; State Silver Medalist in Alpine Skiing Giant Slalom 2015; State Bronze Medalist in Alpine Skiing Slalom 2014; and State Medalist multiple times in the last 12 years in swimming–50 butterfly, 50 breast and 50 freestyle.
In April of this year, Jason will be joining “From Sea to Shining Sea”, a bike ride from San Diego to North Carolina with the Wounded Warriors organization to highlight the adaptive sports available for injured individuals. He will join the team in Baton Rouge, Louisiana for the last 1,000 miles. By not only participating but excelling in numerous diverse sports, Jason has been a huge inspiration to other mentally challenged adults and their families to get out there and try! Jason has proved to the world that just because you are mentally challenged, it doesn’t mean you can’t accomplish your goals, whatever they are!
Lifetime Dedication Award
Coach James E. “Jim” Stockdale grew up in Knoxville, Tennessee where he graduated from Bearden High School. He received his Bachelor’s degree from Oberlin College, after committing two years to the U.S. Army he returned to Knoxville to earn his Master’s degree from the University of Tennessee
Stockdale was a pioneer in women’s basketball, serving as coach of the UT Nurses basketball team for twenty-six years. He was a volunteer coach for the UT Nurses basketball team. They played in the Memphis Nurses League traveling throughout the Southeast and Midwest playing other nursing schools. During his coaching career Jim coached 174 women playing for the UT Nurses and during this time they won 333 games and lost 151 against nursing schools. They also captured seven Cotton States Tournament titles and won the Memphis Nurses League 12 times. Upon his retirement as coach, Jim was inducted into the Memphis Amateur Sports Hall of Fame. Jim and his wife, Dorothy Ashford, have been married 63 years. They have three daughters, one son, ten grandchildren, and fifteen great grandchildren and counting.
Almost 20 years ago, Tom Johnson a former University of Tennessee starting Center, along with his wife, Judy, recognized the need to pursue post-secondary opportunities for adults with intellectual disabilities for their daughter, Sarah. The true vision was not just servicing the needs of a group of individuals in Cleveland, Tennessee, but the state’s development of an entire system that one day would help an array of adults with varying disabilities across the state with their continued growth. Along the way legislation had to be created at the state level, and new licensure categories had to be developed for the administrative departments.
With Tom’s leadership, Trousdale School pursued and achieved national accreditation. Learning for Life, the school’s vision statement, is achieved through a persistent reassessment of goals and related small achievements, time after time after time. Not only has Tom made significant financial contributions and strategic business decisions, but he also has committed inordinate amounts of dreams, time, and energy. Without his perseverance and dedication, many may not have had the opportunities to invest in their own successes and growth toward independence.