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Former tennis ace tells consequences of drunk driving

MADISON – As he was entering college, Blake McMeans’ future was shiny and bright until a wrong decision to drive after drinking left him severely injured.

Now a quadriplegic, McMeans told his story to students at Bob Jones High School on Sept. 24 in Zompa Auditorium.

As a teenager, Blake was following the legacy of his father, Neal McMeans, former University of Tennessee football captain. In tennis, Blake had won numerous tournaments, raced in national rankings and secured his place as one of the United States’ top tennis players.

Unfortunately, Neal McMeans suddenly died of a heart attack when Blake was 17 years old. “Shook by grief, Blake turned to alcohol to numb the pain,” according to his website blakemcmeans.com/meet-blake.

Blake’s skills won a full scholarship to the University of Tennessee, and a prestigious fraternity accepted his bid. Tragically, on Nov. 10, 1994, Blake and his future fraternity brothers met at a bar near UT’s campus. While intoxicated, Blake drove and was within one-half mile of his home when his car ran into an embankment, hit trees and flipped three times.

Airlifted to UT medical center, Blake survived but with severe brain injuries. He was in a coma for more than four months. Blake worked for years to regain speech and rudimentary skills, like swallowing and lifting his head.

“It only takes one time. You can’t pick and choose your time you have a wreck. You think you’re invincible. I did, too, but I found out I am not,” Blake told his Bob Jones audience.

Blake warned the teenagers not to take chances after just one drink or by sending one text message. “It can wait,” he said.

He founded a non-profit organization, Blake McMeans Foundation and Promise Tour, to educate teenagers first-hand about dangers of drunk drinking. He remembers hearing warnings about mixing drinking and driving but never heeding them.

“Looking from the outside, I was a healthy happy teenager with his whole life ahead of him. I thought drinking alcohol was cool and no big deal to drive. I gambled my future and now my future is dramatically different,” Blake said.

Blake said many of his ‘drinking buddies’ while a tennis star disappeared after his accident. “I’m a constant reminder of the reality,” he said.

For more information, visit blakemcmeans.com/meet-blake.

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