With similar spinal injury, Taliaferro reaches out

Updated: April 21, 2006, 11:03 PM ET
By Joe Schad | Special to ESPN.com

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Adam Taliaferro said the voice on the other end of the line was surprisingly clear and upbeat. Especially considering he'd been in that same hospital, only four beds away, wondering perhaps as Tyson Gentry is, when he'll walk again.

"I could hardly talk," Taliaferro recalled. "I was so dazed and confused."

A former Penn State cornerback, Taliaferro, who damaged his spinal cord in a game at Ohio State on Sept. 23, 2000, phoned the Ohio State punter and wide receiver last Sunday to offer support. Gentry seriously injured his neck in a practice collision here last Friday. He has already undergone two surgeries.

Taliaferro, following a lengthy rehabilitation, overcame odds and walked again. Talafierro said that although every spinal cord injury is different, he believes Gentry's injuries are "pretty similar" to his own and that the player faces a lengthy road to recovery. School officials said it will be at least four-to-five weeks before a reasonable prognosis for Gentry can be made and that his family prefers details about the severity not be released.

"I heard no fear in Tyson's voice," Taliaferro said from his home in New Jersey Friday night. "I told him there would be long days ahead, but that he can make it. He told me he was going to work hard. He promised."

Taliaferro said the situation is ironic. On the eve of the Penn State and Ohio State spring football games, Gentry is resting in a bed at the Ohio State University Medical Center, as Taliaferro once did, having been transported there following an injury at Ohio Stadium.

A nurse who once helped Taliaferro, 24, phoned to tell him about Gentry, who will turn 21 in July. Ohio State coach Jim Tressel called the Taliaferro home. Andre Taliaferro, Adam's father, phoned the Gentry home.

"My heart goes out to Tyson," Adam Taliaferro said. "I stressed to him that this is a marathon not a sprint. I wanted him to understand my experiences and that you can recover."

A graduate of Penn State, Taliaferro wanted to attend the Nittany Lions' spring game on Saturday. But he must study for a law school final. Now enrolled at Rutgers University, Taliaferro wants to enter the fields of sports or corporate law.

"I told Tyson that I would call him after he's had some time to recover from his second surgery," Taliaferro said. "I remember how long the process was. I got hurt on Sept. 23 and it wasn't until December that I got some good movement in my legs. It was only then that they told me I had a good chance at recovery."

Today, Taliaferro's foundation helps raise money to pay for hospital bills for those who weren't fortunate enough to receive the financial support he did from Penn State. He also said he works out every single day, even using an elliptical machine.

"I can do about everything," Taliaferro said. "It can be tough to jog, but really there are no limits. I just feel so blessed."

Taliaferro said he had already planned to attend the Penn State at Ohio State game on Sept. 23.

"The six-year anniversary of my injury," Taliaferro said. "How strange."

Joe Schad

College Football