Adam Taliaferro 20 years after returning to Beaver Stadium – Delco Times
Wayne Sebastianelli has been with Adam Taliaferro since the moment he awkwardly fell onto the Ohio stadium field and was unable to get up. The Penn State football doctor stayed with Taliaferro in Columbus until his father arrived the next day. He often visited him in the Magee Rehabilitation Hospital, when he could no longer move his arms and legs, and then after he began a miraculous recovery.
So Sebastianelli was a little worried nearly a year later when Taliaferro warned him of what could happen on the night of September 1, 2001.
“I remember he had done something stupid a few days before that night and said he was going to get out of the tunnel and go out onto the pitch,” Sebastianelli recalls. “He would drop by the office from time to time and tell us. I would say, ‘Be careful.’ He was just going to do it.
Less than 12 months after sustaining a serious spinal cord injury, Taliaferro wowed the record crowd of 109,313 at Beaver Stadium when he led the Nittany Lions to the field for their opener against Miami, Fla. .
That night 20 years ago, he wore his blue No.43 jersey, waved to raving crowds as he waited to be introduced, walked the field with a jump, jump and jog.
“I remember it like it was yesterday,” said Taliaferro. “We were in the locker room and I felt like I was a player again. I had that nervous feeling that I had before every game. Doc Sebastianelli came to my locker and asked me if I was okay.
“He said, ‘Adam, whatever you do, people are going to like it.’ I went there and this peace has just come over me.
It was very different from what the first-year cornerback felt on September 23, 2000. He tackled Ohio State running back Jerry Westbrooks late in a lopsided loss, then tried to use his arms. to get up but could not. He tried to stand up, but his legs were not working. He couldn’t his ends.
“The idea of being paralyzed never occurred to me,” he said. “I remember Bhawoh Jue, our other corner, saying, ‘Adam, come on, get up!’ I remember he leaned towards me and I started to panic because I couldn’t move anything. I remember looking up and seeing Doc Sebastianelli and Coach (Joe) Paterno. Over time, I started to panic. I remember telling Doc, “I can’t move! I can not move !’ From that point on, it got a bit hazy.
Sebastianelli and other medical staff put him on a stretcher. Ohio State orthopedic surgeon Dr. Chris Kaeding helped stabilize Taliaferro. The next day, Dr. Gary Rea performed a two-hour spinal fusion surgery at the Ohio State Medical Center.
After four days, Taliaferro was flown to Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, near his home in Voorhees, NJ. He was transferred in early October to the Magee Rehabilitation Center.
“About four or five days after I started my stay in Magee, my dad (André) rolled me up to the roof so I could get some fresh air,” he said. “Two guys were playing basketball and I broke down. It was the first time that I knew I was disabled. I realized I was broken. My body was no longer functioning.
“It was the first time I cried. My dad said, ‘Take it all out. We were waiting for you to have this moment. It was probably one of my lowest points.
He was told he has a 3% chance of walking again. About three weeks later, however, a turning point came: after his parents returned home one night, one of his nurses noticed he was moving a toe.
“She asked me to do it again, and I did it,” Taliaferro recalls. “It was around 10:30 or 11 at night and she called my dad. He went back to see for himself. We had a celebration in the hospital room that night. He called coach Paterno and some of my teammates to finally give them some good news. It was probably one of the best times of my life.
Andre also called Sebastianelli after 1 a.m. and shouted the news to him.
“I still get chills when I think of that call,” Sebastianelli said. “I knew then that he was going to be able to walk. He was the miracle. He just took off after that. It was dazzling. “
Taliaferro emerged from Magee on crutches in January 2001. He received outpatient therapy there for four hours a day until April and returned to Penn State as a student in May. He always expected to play football again. It was until preseason camp in 2002.
“I was sitting in the locker room and the guys were putting on their shoulder pads and helmets,” he said. “I felt like I was going to cry. It struck me that I would not be playing anymore. Then I thought back to Magee’s patients who had difficulty walking and breathing on their own.
“I was like, ‘What the hell are you thinking about? I never thought about it again. I have always thought about how lucky, blessed and lucky I am.
Tom Bradley, who became Penn State’s defensive coordinator in 2000, said Taliaferro would have had a great career. The three-sport athlete at Eastern High was an all-state first-team selection in attack and defense. He was widely regarded as one of the best high school players in South Jersey history.
“He was the best young defensive back I have ever coached,” said Bradley, who was on the staff at Penn State from 1979 to 2011. “He had great skills. He could do anything. He was tough. He was smart. He understood the game. He was coachable. He was just an exceptional talent.
Taliaferro was a student assistant coach, graduated from Penn State, and received his law degree from Rutgers-Camden. He joined Bristol-Myers Squibb as a health care advocate and became a politician, running for a fourth term as a member of the New Jersey Assembly. The Adam Taliaferro Foundation provides emotional, financial and educational support to victims of catastrophic spinal cord injury and their families, and he often visits Magee’s patients, hoping to give hope to others he has. found there.
Now 39, he is married to Erin (Mulshenock), a former Penn State swimmer. They have two children, Cruz, 6, and Chloé, 3.
So much would not have happened without the injury.
“Of course I can be bitter not to play football, but it really taught me to discover myself,” said Taliaferro. “I really thought I was just a soccer player and that’s all I could do. The injury was horrific, but the life lessons I learned were invaluable. “
Sebastianelli is not surprised by what Taliaferro has accomplished. He said he had nightmares “for a long time” about that afternoon in Columbus in 2000. Almost a year later, Taliaferro took a walk to Beaver Stadium that will be remembered forever.
“I was on the sidelines and I could see the tunnel,” Sebastianelli said. “I saw Adam come out. As soon as the crowd saw it, it was just over. I had tears running down my face. There was a referee next to me and he asked me if I was okay. “I have never felt better. “
“I’ve been doing this for 40 years and you just don’t see it. You don’t get this special gift very often. It was one of them. It was really special.