Ex-tennis star to speak at CSCC

Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Automobile wreckage promotes Blake McMeans' visit this week to Columbia State Community College. A former tennis star, McMeans lost his tennis career and almost his life when he crashed his car after a night of drinking with fraternity brothers.

Former tennis star Blake McMeans, who lost his tennis career and almost his life when he crashed his car after a night of drinking with fraternity brothers, will offer students of Columbia State Community College and the Lewisburg community a lesson he learned the hard way when he speaks on Thursday, Nov. 19.

He'll tell them not to drink and drive or ride with those who do.

"I want people to learn from my mistake, that drinking and driving can have a devastating effect on your life," McMeans said. "I started drinking as a kid to be cool and then made a terrible decision to drink and drive and it cost me dearly. But no one else has to let that happen to them. That's my mission now... to hopefully prevent what happened to me from happening to someone else."

The presentation will start at 6 p.m. at the CSCC Lewisburg campus. It is free and open to everyone, especially students who are about to start driving, or are already driving.

Staff Sgt. Kyle Grisham of the Counter Drug Task Force will give a drug and alcohol briefing after opening remarks by Elizabeth McDow, director of CSCC's Lewisburg site.

A nationally ranked tennis player as a high school student, McMeans was heavily recruited by colleges and universities. But the University of Tennessee - where his father, Neal McMeans, had been a star football player - won out, offering the athlete a full ride to play tennis.

However, an alcohol problem that began at age 12 and which had evolved into heavy weekend drinking by age 17 was consuming him. When his father died unexpectedly at age 46 of a heart attack, the standout ace turned to alcohol instead of reaching out for help in dealing with the death.

Following the wreck, McMeans was in a coma for three and a half months. When he regained consciousness, he was paralyzed in both arms and legs as well as his right side and was unable to speak. It took him seven years to re-learn how to stand, chew and talk.

Today, McMeans speaks haltingly to teenagers and college students about the dangers of drinking and driving. His goal is to get 1,000,000 students to make a pledge not to drink and drive. He also manages The Promise Tour, a 501(c)(3) foundation dedicated to taking the former tennis star's warning to as many youths as possible.

"Youths in high schools and colleges today are under a lot of pressure and there's so much temptation to drink and take drugs, but I want to emphasize they shouldn't cope using alcohol or drugs to be cool," McMeans said. "Being popular with friends is not worth your life. Believe me, I know. If I had it to do over again, I'd do things a lot differently. Today, I want to help teens make right decisions."

The former athlete's speaking engagements are underwritten in part by Athens Distributing, Lipman Distributing and the Tennessee Department of Transportation, Governor's Highway Safety Office (GHSO). His appearance in Lewisburg was organized by McDow, Lt. Rebekah Mitchell of the Lewisburg Police Department and Cynthia George of Community Anti-Drug Coalitions Across Tennessee (CADCAT), after the initial contact was made with Linda Williams-Lee, the Board of Education's federal projects director. It is partly funded by a grant through the governor's highway safety office.

Anyone can join McMeans in making a promise by visiting his website - www.blakemcmeans.com -- and clicking on the pledge under the "Promise Tour" button. Or you can follow him on Facebook at "Friends of Blake McMeans" or on Twitter at "blakemcmeans."