Adam Taliaferro (born January 1, 1982, in Moon Township, Pennsylvania), is a former American football player whose recovery from a paralyzing spinal cord injury sustained while playing cornerback for the Penn State Nittany Lions gained national media attention.
Growing up in Voorhees Township, New Jersey, he was a standout running back and cornerback for the Eastern High School Vikings. In two years of varsity football at Eastern High School, he averaged 9.4 yards per carry, racking up 62 touchdowns, and seven interceptions. Taliaferro was also a four year varsity starter in basketball, and set his school's record in the high jump at 6' 6".
Penn State career
In 2000, Taliaferro joined the Penn State Nittany Lions football team as one of the top-rated freshmen of their 2000 recruiting class. Taliaferro earned playing time as a true freshman for Joe Paterno's Nittany Lions, despite Paterno's well-documented tendency to redshirt freshman players.
On September 23, 2000, while playing in only the fifth game of his college career, Taliaferro sustained a career-ending spinal cord injury while tackling tailback Jerry Westbrooks during Penn State's game versus Ohio State. Taliaferro's helmet had hit Westbrooks' knee during the tackle, bursting the fifth cervical vertebra in his neck and bruising his spinal cord. Unable to control his fall, the crown of his helmet hit the turf and his body rolled awkwardly over his neck. Taliaferro was paralyzed on the hit, which left him with no movement from the neck down.
Taliaferro had surgery at the Ohio State Medical Center to fuse his C-5 vertebrate. After successful surgery, Taliaferro was airlifted back to Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to begin his recovery. Although surgery was successful, Taliaferro was only given a 3% chance of ever walking again.
Return to Penn State
Taliaferro returned to Penn State less than a year after his injury. He led the Penn State Nittany Lions football team onto Beaver Stadium's field for the first game of the 2001 season against the Miami Hurricanes in front of a record crowd of 109,313. Taliaferro skipped, then jogged onto the field in front of an emotional Penn State crowd.
Miracle in the Making & The Adam Taliaferro Foundation
In 2001, a book was written by Sam Carchidi and Scott Brown to chronicle Taliaferro's life and recovery, entitled Miracle in the Making.
Taliaferro created his own foundation to help support others with spinal cord injuries. The foundation was created in 2001, and continues to grow each year. The foundation has been said to raise over $80,000 per year for spinal cord injuries.
In 2008, he was named the recipient of the Philadelphia Sports Writers Association "Humanitarian Award".
Taliaferro enrolled at Rutgers School of Law–Camden in Camden, New Jersey. He earned his J.D. in May 2008 and worked as a lawyer at Duane Morris in the firm's Cherry Hill office for five years. In September 2012, he joined pharmaceutical company Bristol-Myers Squibb as a healthcare advocate, focusing on mental health, oncology, and HIV products. Taliaferro also runs his own foundation which helps student athletes with head or spinal injuries and is a motivational speaker, doing corporate appearances and speaking at schools.
In the spring of 2012, he was elected to the Board of Trustees at his alma mater.
- Kindred, David. "One amazing freshman", The Sporting News, August 27, 2001. Accessed March 17, 2011. "For three months, from October 6 past his 19th birthday on New Year's Day to January 5, Taliaferro underwent rehabilitation therapy at the Magee Rehabilitation Center in Philadelphia, 15 miles from his home in Voorhees, N.J."
- Weber, Jim (19 July 2010). "Finding Adam Taliaferro: 10 years later, devastating injury spawns professional passion". Retrieved 21 July 2010.
- Via Associated Press. "Former Penn State footballer Adam Taliaferro gains seat as Gloucester County freeholder", The Trentonian, November 9, 2011. Accessed January 8, 2012. "Former Penn State football player Adam Taliaferro was elected to the Gloucester County Board of Freeholders last night. Taliaferro made an inspirational recovery from a paralyzing game injury 11 years ago and has now successfully been elected in New Jersey for the first time. Taliaferro ran as a Democrat."
- Romalino, Carly Q. "Freeholder-elect Taliaferro admits to pre-swearing-in jitters", Gloucester County Times, January 3, 2012. Accessed January 8, 2012. "“There are some nerves, but I am confident,” said Taliaferro, of Woolwich Township. “When I first sit down, for me, it’s finally time to do work. To have the opportunity to get started is really going to be exciting to me.”"
- Adam Taliaferro Foundation website
- "I truly feel blessed", The Daily Collegian, October 21, 2006
- "Catching Up With Adam Taliaferro", Audio interview, August 19, 2005
- "After neck injury, Taliaferro still dreams about the NFL", Associated Press, May 13, 2005
- "Taking Purposeful Strides", The New York Times, February 20, 2001
- "Former Penn State player Adam Taliaferro makes great strides from spinal injury", Josh Lederman, USAToday, Jul 20, 2010.