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Stafon's impact, presence made known

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BERKELEY -- Stafon Johnson wasn't there in person, but he sure was there in spirit.

Throughout Saturday's game, the Trojans' hearts and minds were filled with thoughts of Johnson, who was injured in a freak weightlifting accident on Monday and had to remain in a Los Angeles hospital while his teammates traveled to play California.

1003imin.jpgJohnson's presence was felt everywhere, from players' eye black -- many had "13" or "Stafon" written under their eyes -- to his normal seat being left open on the team bus all weekend. The offense's script for its first plays of the game featured 13 plays, and the "I'm In" sign had a piece of tape with "Stafon Johnson #13" written on it, making for an especially poignant tapping-in ceremony before the game and at halftime.

"We're playing for family," tailback Allen Bradford emotionally bellowed in the locker room before the game. "We're playing for Stafon."

Johnson's impact was felt during meetings and practices all week, but it came to a climax on Friday night, when quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates shared a story during the offense's meeting at the team hotel, less than 24 hours before the game. After Johnson scored the winning touchdown at Ohio State three weeks ago, he approached Bates and said, "You can count on me, coach."

"Let's show him that he can count on us," Bates told the players on Friday night.

The Trojans answered the call and delivered an emotional, heavy-hearted 30-3 victory over Cal, one that was filled with thoughts of Johnson from beginning to end. As the Trojans celebrated with the band on the field after the win, Coach Carroll, instead of holding up the traditional two fingers in the shape of a "V" on each hand, raised up one and three fingers to represent Johnson's No. 13 jersey.

"Giving this gift to him tonight did immeasurable amounts to help him," Coach Carroll said in the locker room after the game. "It's been a great outpouring -- let's keep it going."

And the Trojans did just that when they returned to Los Angeles late Saturday night. Instead of busing straight back to campus, they made a detour to try and see Johnson at his hospital. The plan got adjusted since it was so late and Johnson was asleep, but it was the thought that counted.

It was just one of the countless thoughts going out to Johnson on this day.

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awwwww that was sweet. made my eyes water. i know he is hanging in there. thats why i love SC so much. everyone thinks of others :)FIGHT ON! #13

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