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Former tennis player urges kids not to drink and drive

Former tennis player urges kids not to drink and drive
Former tennis player urges kids not to drink and drive | Blake McMeans

By CHRIS MENEES
Staff Reporter
Blake McMeans doesn’t deny he made a bad decision 17 years ago.
But he hopes kids will learn from it now.
McMeans was once a rising tennis star whose promising career was ended by an incapacitating drinking-and-driving acci-dent when he was 17 years old.
He shared his story with Union City and Obion County students Tuesday at two separate school programs presented by the Obion County Prevention Coalition in conjunction with Red Ribbon Week drug-free activities. He spoke in the morning at Union City Civic Auditorium and in the afternoon at Obion County Central High School as part of his Promise Tour.
The programs kicked off with a video of McMeans’ testimony, which explained his desire for youth to learn from the bad decision he made in the fall of 1994.
McMeans, of Hender-sonville, started playing tennis at the age of 3 and had won numerous titles by age 12. He was so successful that he was being exempted from playing in state and regional matches and was going straight to the nationals, once ranked No. 4 in the nation.
Tragedy struck in June 1994 when his father died suddenly of a heart attack. The teenage McMeans was not prepared to deal with the loss.
Five months later, on Nov. 13, 1994, McMeans was out drinking at a bar and made the decision to drive home.
“It turned out to be the biggest mistake of my life,” he said.
He made it to the road where he lived before his car ran off the road and struck a tree.
“I was as close to death as a person can be,” he said.
The 17-year-old Mc-Means was airlifted to a local hospital and remained in a coma for 31⁄2 months. The doctors initially didn’t believe he would live, then believed he would be entirely paralyzed. But the driven young man had other ideas.
After years of rehabilitation, he is now primarily confined to a wheelchair. He will never play tennis again.
His passion now is speaking to young people and compelling them not to make the choices he made. He speaks in high schools and middle schools nationwide and uses his story to convince students not to drink and drive or ride with someone who has been drinking.
On a mission
A hush fell over the crowd of students Tuesday morning at the Union City Civic Auditorium as McMeans slowly walked to the microphone, each move labored and with his personal aide standing nearby.
“A picture’s worth a thousand words,” McMeans said. “You just saw a picture of what can happen. I don’t want it to happen to you.”
He said he hopes that telling his story will inspire students to make good decisions in life. He said his entire life changed after his accident.
McMeans shared that he had actually started sneaking liquor from his parents’ liquor cabinet when he was 12 years old. As he grew older, he drank more and more and, by the time he was in high school, had developed a weekend drinking habit that he hid from his parents and others. He still practiced tennis five hours a day and maintained a national ranking.
When his dad died, the teenage McMeans turned to alcohol.
“But it did not help me. It only numbed me and made it worse,” he said.
He said it is impossible to deny the serious consequences of his decision to drink and drive the night of his accident. It ruined his once promising tennis career and he went from being a healthy young man to someone who is now dependent on the care of others.
McMeans said he started his Promise Tour in an effort to use his own life story to convince students to avoid drinking and driving. He said he plans to ask students to sign a pledge as they make a promise to themselves and to those who love them.
He said alcohol can be a very dangerous substance and he urged the local students not to let it ruin their dreams.
While answering ques-tions from the students, McMeans said he thought for a while that tennis was supposed to be his career, but he now knows from launching his speaking tour that “this is what I was meant to do.”
One student asked McMeans the thought-provoking question, “How do you like your everyday life?”
The determined young man responded without hesitation, drawing applause from the young crowd.
“I love it,” he said. “I couldn’t ask for a better life. I love my life …”
Staff Reporter Chris Menees may be contacted by email at cmenees@ucmessenger.com.

By CHRIS MENEES
Staff Reporter
Blake McMeans doesn’t deny he made a bad decision 17 years ago.
But he hopes kids will learn from it now.
McMeans was once a rising tennis star whose promising career was ended by an incapacitating drinking-and-driving acci-dent when he was 17 years old.
He shared his story with Union City and Obion County students Tuesday at two separate school programs presented by the Obion County Prevention Coalition in conjunction with Red Ribbon Week drug-free activities. He spoke in the morning at Union City Civic Auditorium and in the afternoon at Obion County Central High School as part of his Promise Tour.
The programs kicked off with a video of McMeans’ testimony, which explained his desire for youth to learn from the bad decision he made in the fall of 1994.
McMeans, of Hender-sonville, started playing tennis at the age of 3 and had won numerous titles by age 12. He was so successful that he was being exempted from playing in state and regional matches and was going straight to the nationals, once ranked No. 4 in the nation.
Tragedy struck in June 1994 when his father died suddenly of a heart attack. The teenage McMeans was not prepared to deal with the loss.
Five months later, on Nov. 13, 1994, McMeans was out drinking at a bar and made the decision to drive home.
“It turned out to be the biggest mistake of my life,” he said.
He made it to the road where he lived before his car ran off the road and struck a tree.
“I was as close to death as a person can be,” he said.
The 17-year-old Mc-Means was airlifted to a local hospital and remained in a coma for 31⁄2 months. The doctors initially didn’t believe he would live, then believed he would be entirely paralyzed. But the driven young man had other ideas.
After years of rehabilitation, he is now primarily confined to a wheelchair. He will never play tennis again.
His passion now is speaking to young people and compelling them not to make the choices he made. He speaks in high schools and middle schools nationwide and uses his story to convince students not to drink and drive or ride with someone who has been drinking.
On a mission
A hush fell over the crowd of students Tuesday morning at the Union City Civic Auditorium as McMeans slowly walked to the microphone, each move labored and with his personal aide standing nearby.
“A picture’s worth a thousand words,” McMeans said. “You just saw a picture of what can happen. I don’t want it to happen to you.”
He said he hopes that telling his story will inspire students to make good decisions in life. He said his entire life changed after his accident.
McMeans shared that he had actually started sneaking liquor from his parents’ liquor cabinet when he was 12 years old. As he grew older, he drank more and more and, by the time he was in high school, had developed a weekend drinking habit that he hid from his parents and others. He still practiced tennis five hours a day and maintained a national ranking.
When his dad died, the teenage McMeans turned to alcohol.
“But it did not help me. It only numbed me and made it worse,” he said.
He said it is impossible to deny the serious consequences of his decision to drink and drive the night of his accident. It ruined his once promising tennis career and he went from being a healthy young man to someone who is now dependent on the care of others.
McMeans said he started his Promise Tour in an effort to use his own life story to convince students to avoid drinking and driving. He said he plans to ask students to sign a pledge as they make a promise to themselves and to those who love them.
He said alcohol can be a very dangerous substance and he urged the local students not to let it ruin their dreams.
While answering questions from the students, McMeans said he thought for a while that tennis was supposed to be his career, but he now knows from launching his speaking tour that “this is what I was meant to do.”
One student asked McMeans the thought-provoking question, “How do you like your everyday life?”
The determined young man responded without hesitation, drawing applause from the young crowd.
“I love it,” he said. “I couldn’t ask for a better life. I love my life …”
Staff Reporter Chris Menees may be contacted by email at cmenees@ucmessenger.com.

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