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Baylor Return Recognized At Cal Football Game

College Men

Baylor Return Recognized At Cal Football Game

Cal Rugby – Following his return to campus this semester, former Cal rugby player Robert Paylor was officially welcomed back in a ceremony Sept. 29 at California Memorial Stadium, where a national television audience joined fans at the Cal-Oregon football game to witness the progress in his rehabilitation from a severe spinal-cord injury.
 
During a timeout in the first quarter between the Ducks and Golden Bears, after being welcomed to the field, Paylor rose from his wheelchair with the assistance of associate head rugby coach Tom Billups and, in front of family, friends, caregivers and over 40,000 fans, used a four-point walker to take steps from the 10-yard marker to the sideline.
 
Both football teams joined the cheers as Paylor reached the sideline and raised each arm in triumph.
 
"It was of those moments that gives you goosebumps and brings tears to your eyes," said play-by-play announcer Justin Kutcher on the Fox Sports 1 broadcast.
 
"Great moment," agreed FS1 analyst Petros Papadakis. "And I love seeing the whole Oregon sideline standing up and applauding. Really, really special for everybody here."
 
Saturday night was the latest spectacular moment in an arduous journey for Paylor, who was as energized by his reception as he was inspirational to those awed by his progress.
 
"The preparation for this day has been going on for a year and six months," Paylor said. "Ever since May 6 (2017, when he was injured in the Varsity Cup championship)], I had to turn my mindset on in a manner which would allow me to do amazing things like this. Such an incredible moment. I feel so blessed. I've been supported more than anyone could ever hope for here. And to be recognized here and do this is an amazing feeling all around."
 
Among Paylor's guests Saturday were staff members from Craig Hospital in Colorado, where Paylor spent 11 months following his initial treatment at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center.
 
"They saw me at my weakest and we worked every day to build me up to my strongest," Paylor said. "It was such a blessing to have them and others who are close to me to share in what was an incredible moment and honor."

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Since his return to campus, Paylor has taken on a rigorous academic schedule as a third-year student in the Haas School of Business while remaining focused on his physical rehabilitation, which he pursues with the help of Billups in their training sessions at the Simpson Center for Student-Athlete High Performance.
 
"It's a real privilege to be able to coach Robert again, something I've been looking forward to since his injury," said Billups, a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (C.S.C.S) who also directs Cal rugby's strength program. "Robert is setting new personal records every week in his workouts and make no mistake, he is busting his tail."
 
Cal rugby Head coach Jack Clark echoed the praise for his former player, and all those who have risen to support Paylor in his journey.
 
"With Robert back on campus, we have put our efforts behind supporting him, and our student-athletes have been terrific in their dedication to the cause." said Clark. "Everything is doable because of Robert's resilience. He is an outright inspiration to be around. We admire and love him."
 
Paylor's mentality as a high-performance student-athlete is apparent in the miraculous potential he projects. As focused as he was in pursuit of his goal to take steps in front of Saturday's audience, Robert made sure to absorb the moment.
 
"I definitely was stopping and smelling the roses a little bit," he said. "I was on a mission. I had something to do but you can't help but feel that infectious love that's coming from this community and that crowd. One of the best feelings I've ever had."
 
Director of Athletics Jim Knowlton, who began his tenure at the University this summer, was among those amazed. "Like so many others around the world, I was inspired by Robert Paylor and those who love him," he said. "I've now had the privilege and honor, as many of us did at Memorial Stadium, to witness his strength, his family's strength and the wonderful support he receives, from both the Cal community and the community at large."