‘I was mad at God’
‘I had to seek help’
“Whether he wanted to stay or leave, I was more concerned with his well-being and happiness,” Corbin said. “I certainly understand that there are a lot of hard days. But I think he’s in a good place now.”
Johnson has found strength in his weakness, healing a little each time he sheds tears over his friend. He likes to recall good times with Everett, who has popped up in Johnson’s dreams from time to time.
“And those (dreams featuring Everett) are always good ones,” he added.
Each time Johnson has dropped to his lowest point over the past year, a small moment has picked him up. After the funeral, Johnson had to drive that same F-150 truck from Nashville to Texas. Along the interstate, a familiar sight and a big billboard caught his eye.
“It was really cool. It was Donny again.”Johnson has been comforted by the countless tributes to Everett over the past year, beginning with the moment of silence recognized at every NCAA Tournament college baseball game across the country on the day after he died.
Since then, Everett’s No. 14 was retired by Clarksville High and his No. 41 was retired by Vanderbilt.
And last week, the SEC Tournament honored Everett with “101” printed on the bottom-right corner of the scoreboard at Hoover (Ala.) Metropolitan Stadium. It signified the 101 mph pitch tossed by Everett at the 2016 SEC Tournament in his final game.
But Johnson’s favorite tribute was a private one on Everett’s birthday, April 16, when he, Day and fellow Vanderbilt pitcher Collin Snider visited their friend’s grave site at Sango Cemetery in Clarksville.
“There were a bunch of emotions, but things are getting better,” Johnson said. “I always just live every day like it’s my last because that’s what Donny would want for us.”
Johnson graduated from Vanderbilt in May with a sociology degree. He works for his father, a general contractor in the Austin area, while looking for a long-term job. He leans heavily on the faith of his parents for strength.
Johnson still speaks to his former Vanderbilt teammates regularly. And he occasionally swaps text messages with Donny’s parents, Teddy and Susan Everett. But he has rarely thrown a baseball since leaving the team about seven months ago.
Johnson starts every day with a prayer and a few words for Everett.
“It’s almost like a normal conversation,” Johnson said. “Like, ‘Hey Donny, are you doing all right, man?’ And then I think about his infectious smile.
“Donny is with me every day.”
Reach Adam Sparks at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @AdamSparks.
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