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Once-paralyzed player can walk on his own
Associated Press

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Adam Taliaferro, back at Penn State for the first time since a neck injury left him paralyzed, made it clear that he intends to help the Nittany Lions win.

"Coach told me they want me to be out there, just helping any way I can with the defensive backs," the former football player said Saturday before Penn State's basketball game against Michigan State. "I'm still going to be lifting with the guys and running with the guys, but they want me to evaluate tape and help break it down."

The 19-year-old freshman cornerback from Voorhees, N.J., was injured in a September game against Ohio State.

Doctors initially were unsure whether Taliaferro would ever walk, but he has undergone a remarkable recovery, going home on crutches just three months after he was hurt.

Taliaferro now can walk unassisted, although he still favors his left leg, and he is working with therapists to unclench his right hand. But his physical therapy sessions, which once lasted five hours a day, are down to two hours, and he says next week he will begin working out in a gym and doing water exercises.

Taliaferro said he still hoped to run in front of his teammates when they come out of the locker room Sept. 2 to face Miami (Fla.) in their home opener.

"That's what I'm hoping," Taliaferro said. "Now that the walking is going good, in therapy I'm working on getting up to a jog. I'm still a little ways away, but I think it should be a possibility I'll be able to do that by the time we play Miami."

Taliaferro was injured Sept. 23 while making a headfirst tackle in a 45-6 loss at Ohio State. His head hit the knee of running back Jerry Westbrooks and snapped backward, shattering a bone in his neck. His spinal cord was severely bruised but not severed.

After being stabilized on the field by Dr. Wayne Sebastianelli, Penn State's team doctor, Taliaferro was rushed to Ohio State Medical Center, where doctors performed surgery to repair and set the bones in his neck.

"I was blessed that the swelling in my spinal cord wasn't that severe. The doctors -- Dr. Sebastianelli and the Ohio State doctors -- they handled me perfectly, and everything went perfect. They got me back to where I am today," Taliaferro said.

"I was nervous, and I knew I was paralyzed, but I always knew I was going to walk again."

Taliaferro was later transferred to Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia to be closer to his home, and on Oct. 6 to Magee Rehabilitation Hospital. Both Jefferson and Magee are part of the Regional Spinal Cord Injury Center.

He left Magee on crutches Jan. 5, just days after his 19th birthday. Since then, his physical therapy sessions have been gradually reduced from four-plus hours a day.

Taliaferro returned to campus on Friday and enrolled in summer school classes, then spent the evening with his teammates.

"The ordeal is coming to an end," his father, Andre Taliaferro, said. "He's going to get a chance to resume what his college life is all about, except for the football - except for the playing, he'll still be involved in the football."