- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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After a weightlifting injury that nearly killed him, 21-year-old USC running back Stafon Johnson (above), who will play in Saturday's Senior Bowl in Mobile. On Sept. 28 Johnson, the Trojans' top rusher in 2008, was bench-pressing 275 pounds when the bar slipped from his hands, fracturing and displacing his vocal cord and severing his larynx. A seven-hour operation saved his life. (His voice, still soft and raspy, will be corrected with further surgery.) Johnson opted not to seek a medical redshirt, and current projections rank him anywhere between the 13th- and 23rd-best back available in the April NFL draft. "It's been pedal to the metal the last few weeks," Johnson told SI's Albert Chen. "Now I need to show everyone I'm a football player, not a guy who had a freak neck injury."
Of unknown causes, after collapsing at a Spokane, Wash., restaurant, former Gonzaga men's basketball coach Dan Fitzgerald, 67, who recruited a local teen named John Stockton to the school in 1981 and who brought the program to prominence in the '90s. Fitzgerald was 252--171 in two stints at Gonzaga—in between he focused on his athletic director duties, such as renovating the Bulldogs' arena, the Kennel—and took the school to its first NCAA tournament appearance, in '95. The thumbprints of Fitz can be found all over the modern Zags: His pupil Mark Few has led the program to the tournament every year since taking over in '99.
With assaulting the father of 1994 Olympic figure skating silver medalist Nancy Kerrigan, her brother Mark, who pleaded not guilty on Monday, one day after 70-year-old Daniel Kerrigan died. According to a police report, officers responded early Sunday morning to a call at the elder Kerrigan's home outside Boston, where they found him unconscious and pictures displaced from the wall. Police say that Mark (five years older than the 40-year-old Nancy) appeared intoxicated and had to be subdued with pepper spray; he told them he'd tussled with his father over the use of the household's phone. The cause of death remains undetermined pending an autopsy; however, Daniel Kerrigan's wife, Brenda, told the Boston Herald that a heart attack was to blame. As of Monday, Mark had not been charged with murder.
For alcoholism, Detroit Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera, who has admitted he was suffering from the effects of drinking when he went 0 for 7 in a crucial two-game stretch last October. The four-time All-Star's failures proved costly for the Tigers in a loss to the White Sox 14 hours after police responded to an early-morning domestic dispute at his home. (Cabrera has admitted he was drunk at the time.) As a result Detroit became the first team since 1901 to miss the playoffs after holding a three-game lead with four games remaining. In the off-season the 26-year-old Cabrera (.324, 103 RBIs in 2009) spent three months in a Miami outpatient treatment program and last week said he hadn't had a drink since the police visit.
For their first-place routine at the European figure skating championships last Saturday, Russian ice dancers Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin (above), who skated to Aboriginal Australian music, replete with didgeridoos, while wearing leaves over their brown bodysuits and makeup. The couple have stood by their outfits' authenticity, citing their research on the Internet, and plan to use the routine in Vancouver (where they're gold medal favorites), but Aboriginal groups were outraged. The designs, says Bev Manton, chairperson of the New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council, "are no more authentic than the shiploads of cheap 'Aboriginal' tourist trinkets that pour into our country from overseas."