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."
At age 92, Bobby Bragan, who in 1966 was the first manager of the Atlanta Braves. In seven seasons at the helm of three clubs (the others were the Pirates and the Indians), Bragan tutored, among others, Hall of Famers Roberto Clemente, Eddie Mathews and Hank Aaron, going 443--478 in a manner that was antic-filled. (He once stripped down to his skivvies to protest a call.) "Mr. Baseball" may be best remembered for his unlikely embrace of integration in the sport. Bragan was playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers in '47 when Jackie Robinson broke the big league color line. "Growing up in Birmingham, I never mixed much with blacks," Bragan wrote in his autobiography, "and I just wasn't going to stand for it." But a two-week road trip sold Bragan on the experiment. Said Bragan, "Thanks to [Robinson and Branch Rickey, who signed him], I was able to overcome my racial prejudice."
From the Sun Belt Conference after 24 years, the University of New Orleans, which cited budget cuts and the effects of Hurricane Katrina in its move to Division III, beginning in July. The Privateers have been hard up since the category 5 storm ravaged the area in 2005; in the aftermath the university shut down nine of its 15 intercollegiate sports and opened its campus to the National Guard as a temporary staging area. Since then, enrollment has dropped by more than 5,000 (to 11,800), leaving the athletic department $3 million in arrears on its D-I dues. The Sun Belt has waived a $500,000 withdrawal fee.
THEY SAID IT
Yankees third baseman, who batted .245 in the playoffs since coming to New York before hitting .365 this fall, on being named the New York Baseball Writers Association's postseason MVP: "What's next, the Good Guy Award?"
Miles per hour that a human being might be able to run, according to a study in the Journal of Applied Physiology.
Miles per hour at top speed attained by Usain Bolt while setting the record for the 100-meter dash (9.58) in August.
Attendance at college football's East-West Shrine Game in Orlando, the lowest in the event's 85 years.
Career points scored by 37-year-old Shaquille O'Neal as of Jan. 19, making him the oldest of five players to hit the mark.
Career points scored by Kobe Bryant, 31, as of Jan. 21, making him the youngest of 15 players to hit the mark.
Runners disqualified last week from a Jan. 2 marathon in Xiamen, China, for violations that included use of public transportation and the sharing of time-recording microchips with faster participants.
Minutes of delay at the Australian Open after a ball boy wet his pants and a blower drying the court ran out of gas.
PETER READ MILLER (JOHNSON)
INTS KALNINS/REUTERS (DOMNINA AND SHABALIN)
CHUCK SOLOMON (RODRIGUEZ)