UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. (WTAJ)– 21-years ago this week, the college football world was holding its breath when Penn State Freshman Adam Taliaferro was lying motionless on the field at Ohio State. Years later after the incident, Adam is now a symbol for many.
It was late in the game between Penn State and Ohio State when Adam attempted a tackle that crushed a bone in his neck. Adam described what it was like being carted off the field on the stretcher and what it felt like to not be able to give the “okay thumbs-up.”
“Guys give the thumbs up to say ‘hey I’m on the stretcher but I’m ok’ and when I couldn’t give the thumbs up that’s when I realized something was wrong.”
It was found that Adam had a bruised spinal cord from crushed C-5 vertebrae and doctors only gave him a three percent chance to ever walk again.
“I never knew,” Taliaferro said. “My dad said if he’s not going to walk, he’ll find out eventually.”
Adam’s parents tried to shield him from how serious the injury actually was. Adam explained that positive energy was prioritized.
“When I’m laying in the hospital people are coming in, having a good time and lifting my sprits and I thought this can’t be that bad if all my friends are good and nobody is crying. I think mentally it turley helped me get through the injury because there was never a time I thought things weren’t going to work out. There were times I was frustrated, but never a time I said it wasn’t going to happen.”
Less than year later Adam led Penn State back out onto the field. In 2005 he to graduated and returned home to go to law school in New Jersey. Today, the Adam Taliaferro Foundation gives aid to those who have suffered from spinal cord injuries.
“I say it’s like a fraternity nobody wants to be in but we’re going to be connected for life.”
In 2019, Schuykill County teen Jaden Leiby also injured his spine in a very similar injury to Adam’s. Jayden describes Adam as an older brother to him. Both of them were at Penn State’s White Out game this past Saturday.
“Positivity, he’s been pushing that the whole time since we met,” Leiby said. “He doesn’t have to say it, he shows it. I see so much of myself in him and it hurt when I heard he first got hurt. I knew the pain he was going through. Not the physical pain, but the mental pain of knowing your football career is over and wondering what’s next, and if you’re going to walk again and all the things that comes with it.”
Adam said that he would be lying if he didn’t wonder about his football career might have been if he never got hurt that day in Columbus. 20-years after the injury his life is changed and allowed him to help other like him.
“I’m at peace with it you know. I think about all the blessings. The injury, it stunk and I’d never wish it on anybody, but the life lessons I learned and the people I got to meat and experiences I encountered were unbelievable.”