As a 14-year-old football player at Sherman High School, Trenell Walker wanted to use his natural athletic ability to help pull his family out of generational poverty. But a single play on an October night in 1995 forced the athlete to change the route to his goal.
To be the only freshman starter in the varsity football game against Wichita Falls Hershey! It made perfect sense. Trenell Walker had natural athletic ability that was groomed and polished for such a night. No longer would his mother have to work two and three jobs to support his brother Artez and him. All he had to do to make it happen was to keep playing football.
That change started on October 20, 1995, when Walker was playing strong safety in the seventh game of the season.
“I blitzed from my strong safety position to stuff a sweep. The running back reversed field as soon as he receives the pitch, trying to avoid a loss. I made a textbook tackle from behind, hitting the running back, wrapping up and driving him toward the ground. Then my teammate comes from the opposite side to assist with the tackle, launching himself at the falling running back. He missed, striking me on the crown of the helmet and crushing the fourth vertebrae in my neck,” Tranell recalls.
“I was paralyzed immediately after the hit. I knew something was wrong but didn't recognize the seriousness of it till later. I thought I broke my back. I told the trainers and my brother this. I found out later it was my neck. While on the field, someone asked, 'Can you squeeze my hand?'
“I responded, 'I can't.'
“I didn't know the person was touching me. I only felt a couple of things: my body curling into a fetal position despite being physically on my left side. I was still in the position that I made the tackle. Another interesting feeling happened after I was rolled on my back. My arms and legs felt like they were pointed toward the sky. It felt weird. The ambulance took me quickly to the local hospital.”
While in ICU, Trenell's heart stopped three times and his lungs collapsed. Survival was far from sure.
But Trenell did survive, and went on to thrive, but it took time.
The same heart that had stopped three times in ICU was now, he said, filled with sadness, despair, and hopelessness. And some anger. The road ahead looked dark and dismal with no hope of his paralysis ever reversing. He was a quadriplegic.
The words “NEVER EVER” would ring in Walker's head for a long time.
“I lost my value as a man, and I felt worthless. I had put a lot of value in my body, and I'm supposed to be able to fix a car or an appliance. The Bible says, 'Love thy neighbor as thyself.' I had people loving me but I couldn't accept it because I didn't love myself.”
His mother Verna encouraged Trenell to pray, but he was too mad at God. His mother's steadfast and loving care revealed the family's mantra: faith, family, and perseverance. Finally, Trenell got tired of crying himself to sleep each night, so he prayed.
When he did, he felt the Lord saying, “Trenell, you put football before me. With this injury, you will inspire others, that if they put me first and use their mind to the fullest, they can do anything.”
Through tutoring and alternative education, Trenell was able to join his classmates for high school graduation. He crossed the stage in his power wheelchair. With the help of his brother Artez, he was able to attend the University of North Texas and receive a bachelor's degree in rehabilitation. Next, he earned a master's degree, also at UNT, in rehabilitation counseling. Today he is a certified rehabilitation counselor at Angels of Care Pediatric Home Health.
A voice-activated computer enables Trenell to go online, send emails and text messages, and make calls on his cellphone. Although he is paralyzed from the neck down, he's able to read books, use the mouse on the computer, and point & click with a special wand in his mouth.
Trenell has dreamed of having his story in movies. Although he always wanted to be Zig Ziglar's protégé, he was able to achieve the next best thing through Zig Ziglar's son, Tom. Zig Ziglar was a promonent author and motivational speaker
With the help of Tom Ziglar, John Rouse, and Andy Costa, Trenell is able to tell his story in a documentary called “Walker Beyond Limits.” The 25-minute film can be viewed for free at http://www.walkerbeyondlimits.com.
As Trenell says, “There's no dream without a team,” and quotes Zig Ziglar, “If you find a turtle on the fence post, he didn't get there by himself.”