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McMeans gives freshmen personal message about drinking and driving
Blake McMeans pic.jpg

It’s hard to imagine, but a Warren County High School auditorium filled with 500 freshmen fell stone silent last week.

Blake McMeans, once a nationally ranked high school tennis player, struggled to raise himself from his motorized scooter-chair. Tony Lester, his driver and personal assistant, steadied him as he tried to straighten himself behind the podium. Then he began to speak, haltingly, with difficulty and sometimes straining to make his words understandable.  

But his message was clear: don’t make the mistake I did by drinking and driving.

After graduating early in 1994 from the high school where he was voted “best looking,” he spent an evening under-age drinking with friends who were to be his fraternity brothers at the University of Tennessee, one of several top schools that offered him academic-athletic scholarships. A little after 2 a.m. and only a half-mile from his home, he lost control of his vehicle and overran an embankment, hitting a tree and flipping over three times.

Barely escaping death in the wreck, he remained hospitalized for months, spending the first four of them in a coma. Then came years of re-learning how to talk, walk and even swallow. His neurological damage was extensive and much of it beyond recovery.   

But with the determination and energy he put into his early tennis career, he managed to regain some measure of strength and mobility. His dreams of becoming a top-performing tennis professional, however, were gone forever.

“I was once one of the top 10 tennis players in the nation and now I struggle to button my shirt and tie my shoes,” he told the hushed audience. “The choices we make affect us for a lifetime, and affect the family that loves us.”

He pointed out that friends who party with us in “the good times” are often the first to abandon us when fortunes go into reverse.

“I noticed that my old buddies didn’t want to be around me” after the accident. “I guess I reminded them that things could go bad,” he surmised.

Through his Nashville-based nonprofit, the Blake McMeans Foundation and Promise Tour, he speaks at high schools and youth groups across Tennessee to underscore the fact that some bad decisions can’t be undone, and the consequences radiate outward from a single individual into families and communities.  

State Farm is a major financial supporter of his foundation and served as his host for his appearance at WCHS.

Joining McMeans on the stage as guests of honor were representatives of the three law enforcement agencies responsible for motor vehicle safety locally — McMinnville Police Department, Warren County Sheriff’s Department and Tennessee Highway Patrol.