Croft suffered a devastating injury to his left knee; it was the same one he hurt two years prior and fought all-the-way back to play again. Ironically, the game was statistically the best of Croft’s varsity career with 158 yards rushing. In the end, the Falcons absorbed the 54-28 setback, but it was the residual impact of Croft’s departure which would challenge everyone.
On paper, Croft’s 2011 official statistic line will forever read 240 yards gained and one touchdown scored. But this young man was and is a contributor in so many other ways and he’s proven it. First and foremost, his attitude and maturity dealing with the injury is a stellar example to all. Many young student-athletes would spew bitterness, anger and other negative emotion that would be toxic to their peer group, team and families.
“I guess I’ve had some bad luck,” Croft says. “It really hits me when I see my teammates warming-up before games. I realize I can’t play” he says in disappointment. “A lot of other people have it worse.
Ever since the injury, Croft has been there with his team every step of the way. He never misses a practice. He is the first one to the field each day according to head coach Bill Kepler. His dedication and devotion to teamwork would make any coach or teammate proud.
“He even calls me when he has a doctor’s appointment and will miss practice. Johnny is one of the hardest workers we’ve ever had. He led by example -- a quiet leader. We lost a real on-field asset,” Kepler says with admiration.
The athletic young man played both sides of the ball with vigor and intensity. When not in the offensive backfield, he played strong safety on defense. Croft is among the most respected members of the team. As a senior, he and other fourth-year players take and share leadership responsibility the way it was bestowed upon them.
“Johnny is an absolute positive for the program,” says CP’s defensive coordinator Derek “Clem” Clements. “When he went down, we lost more than just his play on the field. He is a special kid who understands what it takes to be successful.”
Along with his close friends, quarterback Jordan Louis and back Daivon Ballard, the trio looked to enjoy the fruits of their hard work with a successful campaign, perhaps a DVAL crown. With Croft sidelined, that is still a possibility, but it won’t be easy running the gauntlet of the DVAL.
In honor of their friend, Louis and Ballard have taken the opportunity to wear Croft’s uniform, jersey No. 9, in games. First, it was Jordan in the homecoming game against Clayton Valley then Ballard following suit.
What’s next? Croft will have follow-up surgery this month. Then it is rehabilitation. He hopes to be able to compete in track this coming spring. There is the option of playing football at the next level, likely DVC, however, Croft has his eyes set on becoming a firefighter as a career.