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'I could have died': Florida Gators star Keyontae Johnson opens up about on-court collapse

Johnson collapsed during a timeout in the Dec. 12 game against Florida State. In his first interview since the incident, he said he is blessed to be alive.
LSU v Florida
Keyontae Johnson of the Florida Gators in action against the LSU Tigers at Stephen C. O'Connell Center on Feb. 26, 2020, in Gainesville, Fla.Mark Brown / Getty Images file

In his first interview since his mid-game collapse late last year, Florida Gators basketball star Keyontae Johnson said he feels "blessed to be here."

“I was passed out," he said in an interview that appeared Tuesday on the team’s news site. "I could have died. ... You just can’t take life for granted.”

Johnson was taken off the floor on a stretcher after collapsing during a timeout in a Dec. 12 game against rival Florida State. The basketball player slowly recovered and was released from the hospital 10 days after the incident.

Johnson said his first memory after the harrowing experience was waking up in the hospital bed.

“When I woke up, I thought I was dreaming when I saw my mom in front of me,” he said. “I was still really drowsy, but I could kind of open my eyes.”

Johnson and many of his teammates tested positive for Covid-19 during the summer, but doctors determined that his collapse was not related to his bout with the coronavirus. Johnson said he still does not know what caused it.

While he is not returning to the court this season, he said he remains hopeful.

“I’m going to stick with the positive mindset that I’m playing again,” Johnson said. “I'm still taking tests and going to be taking a lot more tests. I'll have to get on a treadmill eventually and be connected to things. MRIs, EKGs, stress tests, all that, to find out what caused this.”

Johnson said he expects to resume playing again “hopefully this summer.” In the meantime, the Florida Gators player said he would get back into shape and assist with scouting upcoming opponents — all while rooting for his team on the sidelines.

“In the past, we'd had some guys, some instances, where players got hurt and mentally kind of went away. Got disengaged. I wanted to learn from that and stay engaged,” Johnson said.

“When they play, they feel my energy. The West Virginia game? I was right under the basket,” he said, referring to Florida's 85-80 win last month over the West Virginia Mountaineers.

“It was almost like being out there with them.”