Best & Brightest: Injury Leads Student to New Career Goal, New Charity, New Outlook on Life

During his freshman year at Pennsylvania State University in 2000, Adam Taliaferro had dreams of entering the NFL. But during the season’s fifth game against Ohio State, Taliaferro’s life took a dramatic turn.

He went to make a tackle he’d made plenty of times before, but this one resulted in a broken bone in his neck. “I didn’t think I was paralyzed … you just think that couldn’t happen to you,” he says

Taliaferro, a third-year law student at Rutgers University, says his injury and story of recovery has been anything but a setback. With a new-found appreciation for life, Taliaferro is on a career path he never before considered and he serves as a source of encouragement for others.

The incident shattered his vertebrate, causing spinal cord injury and paralyzing Taliaferro from the neck down. Physicians told Taliaferro’s parents that they should start preparing their son for life in a wheelchair and that he would have a 3 percent chance of walking again.

But over the course of 7 months, the now 25-year-old Sicklerville, N.J., resident underwent a dramatic recovery that defied the odds and went beyond medical expectations. He was in intensive care for two weeks and rehabilitation for several months, an experience he describes as “kind of like I was a baby all over again … I was learning how to brush my teeth and learning how to take care of myself.”

Today, he says, “just being able to walk to class. Being able to write on my own and just little things people don’t think about, I’ve learned to appreciate a lot more.”

At the suggestion of a college guidance counselor, Taliaferro filled out a career interest survey, which listed law as one of his interests. Taliaferro then worked as a summer intern at a Washington, D.C. law firm in 2002.

“I really enjoyed it … and from that point on I decided I wanted to enter the law field,” Taliaferro says.  “I had no idea I wanted to be an attorney or that I wanted to go to law school. “Football was always my first love.”

Taliaferro has excelled in law school and has already secured a job with a Philadelphia-based law firm in its labor and employment department.

John S. Beckerman, associate dean for academic affairs at Rutgers School of Law-Camden, says Taliaferro will bring a unique perspective to the law community after graduation.

“He has really overcome (his injury) in the most spectacular way,” says Beckerman, who instructed Taliaferro during a first-year civil procedure law class. “He has an incredibly sunny disposition and he’s becoming a wonderful lawyer.”

With the help of his high school football coach, Taliaferro founded the “Adam Taliaferro” foundation in 2001. The organization sponsors events throughout the year to help raise money for people with spinal cord injuries.

About twice a month, Taliaferro participates in motivational speaking events at schools and businesses throughout the Delaware Valley. Most recently, he spoke to a diverse group of children with learning disabilities.

“Since my injury I’ve had the opportunity to do a lot of motivational speaking,” Taliaferro says. “I have the opportunity to get out and meet people and share my story and hopefully inspire people in all aspects of life.”

 

 

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