UM’s Drake Johnson was struck by forklift

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
Drake Johnson

The driver of a forklift thought he had run over a starting block when, in fact, he had run over Michigan running back Drake Johnson at the indoor track building, according to a University of Michigan Police report.

The report, obtained Tuesday by The Detroit News through an open-records request, was filed as a State of Michigan Traffic Crash Report April 13, the day of the accident.

The report confirms speculation at the time of the accident that Johnson was struck by a forklift.

Johnson, who has endured two anterior cruciate ligament knee tears during his Michigan football career, also ran track this spring, told the U-M police officer he was "sitting on the track floor stretching ... when he was run over by the vehicle" in the indoor track building when the incident occurred that morning.

According to the police report, the driver of the forklift / utility vehicle, Matt Johnson, said he was “moving a large cabinet and was traveling with the cabinet about eye level. He stopped at the large garage door and a co-worker opened the door for him.”

In the report, Matt Johnson said he drove into the building “and felt a bump, stating he thought he ran over a starting block, when he saw Drake Johnson, a student-athlete, roll from under the forklift. And M. Johnson realized he had ran over Drake Johnson who was sitting on the track floor stretching.”

Drake Johnson was examined at the scene by an athletic trainer, then examined by a University of Michigan doctor at Schembechler Hall, the football building, and then was transported to the U-M Hospital emergency room by athletic staff.

“Johnson was treated for injuries” and was “held for observation,” according to the police report, which indicated the case was closed.

Later that day, Drake Johnson posted a short message on Twitter.

“All I can say is thank god,” he wrote.

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, during a Big Ten conference call the following day, said it was a “miracle” Johnson was not injured more seriously.

“I can tell you this, it would have killed a lesser man, but he is blue twisted steel, very flexible and amazing,” Harbaugh said on the call. “But it’s one of those miraculous things and he is doing well.”

Harbaugh said at the time he thought Johnson’s recovery would be two to three weeks “at the most.”

“It’s a miracle right up there with Easter,” Harbaugh said. “Just thanking God he is all right, that’s my thoughts on it.”

Johnson, a state track champion at Ann Arbor Pioneer, was encouraged by Harbaugh to run track this spring. Johnson has had more than his share of bad luck with injuries during his Michigan career. He tore his ACL for the first time in 2013 in the season opener against Central Michigan, and after returning from that injury had breakout performances late in the 2014 season. In the season finale at Ohio State in 2014, Johnson suffered another torn ACL.

He said this spring his left knee was getting stronger because of running track.

Johnson has rushed for 641 yards during his career, including 271 on 54 carries and four touchdowns last fall. He also had two touchdown receptions.