NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – News 2 recently shared stories about the lasting impact drinking and driving can have on families. After our reports aired, one man reached out to us with his own story.
“He started hitting the ball over the net at the age of three, which is amazing, and then at five he could rally with the six and 7-year-olds,” said Cynthia McMeans Hickerson as she smiled talking about her son.
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By no means was tennis considered just a hobby for Blake McMeans. While he excelled at every sport he played, tennis was special.
“He’d be down in the third and I’d have to go to the bathroom, and he would see me walking by the fence and say, ‘Don’t worry, Mom, I’m going to get this.’ He was down love 5, and I’d say, ‘Well, it’s time you thought about it in the third,'” she laughed. “He would win it.”
At 17 years old, McMeans was only a few months shy of starting his freshman year at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, on a full tennis scholarship. He was ranked Top 5 in the nation and his dream of going pro after college was just months away from becoming a reality when his mother received a phone call.
“I got a phone call from the University of Tennessee Hospital saying that my son had had some trouble and did I want to come to the University of Tennessee Hospital, and I started to scream,” Hickerson recalled. “My daughter was 12 and she was upstairs, and I knew it was bad. She goes, ‘Mom, you don’t know yet,’ and I go, ‘I know; this is bad.'”
Among the many photos of McMeans growing up is one that shows him behind the wheel of a car with his mother in the passenger seat. It would be the same car that ended up totaled one night. Blake was headed home, but he would never make it.
“I can’t remember that night, but they tell me I was at a bar. I know you’re going to be like, ‘Well, you were only 17,’ but I had a fake ID,” said McMeans.
Sitting in his wheelchair, he went on to describe what he could remember. One of his favorite topics was, of course, tennis. He sat and talked endlessly about practicing before and after school. He could recall teaching others how to train to become the best.
However, when it came to the night of Nov. 10, 1994, it was hard to remember everything.
“I ran off the road and there was an embankment on both sides of the road, and I went through that,” McMeans said.
That night, McMeans was drinking with future fraternity brothers off campus when he got into his car to drive home. Just after 2 a.m., he was just half a mile from his home when he crashed; his car hit a tree and flipped three times.
His injuries were so severe, they put him in a coma, paralyzing him from head to toe.
“I don’t know. I just knew he was going to come out of it. Just like he did in his tennis matches, he’d pull them out,” recalled Hickerson, describing how friends and family would come to visit. Some even would sleep on the floor.
Four months later, McMeans would wake up to his new reality.
With rehab and perseverance, it would take a year for McMeans to start talking, seven years to stand up, and then another two years to string steps together.
“I want to make it impossible for people, not just kids, people to deny that there can be serious consequences to actions,” he said.
Now, McMeans is back at center court in a new way. He travels to high schools, colleges, and organizations around the country, sharing his story with others.
“Of course I don’t want them to drink and drive, but I just want them to in some way look at me and become a better person for it,” said McMeans.
McMeans and his family have created the Blake McMeans Foundation to “educate people on the dangers of drinking and driving, and the importance of making good decisions.”
The foundation is hosting an informative and inspirational breakfast fundraiser on Thursday, Sept. 28 at Woodmont Christian Church starting at 7 a.m. The goal is to educate people on the dangers of drinking and driving.