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Cal Inspiration Paylor To Receive Wilma Rudolph Award

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Cal Inspiration Paylor To Receive Wilma Rudolph Award

Robert Paylor tribute graphic courtesy Cal Rugby.

BERKELEY, Calif. – On May 6, 2017, Robert Paylor suffered a severe spinal cord injury in Santa Clara during the Varsity Cup rugby collegiate national championship game against Arkansas State.

For the past three years, we have followed Robert's incredible journey through rehabilitation while his determination and perseverance have allowed him to defy the odds at every corner. Today, Robert receives the N4A Wilma Rudolph Student-Athlete Achievement Award. It is an annual honor which recognizes just five NCAA student-athletes from across all divisions who have overcome great personal, academic and/or emotional odds to achieve success while participating in intercollegiate athletics.

"Robert epitomizes the human spirit and what a truly committed individual can achieve," said Cal Rugby Head Coach Jack Clark. "He is the most inspirational and accomplished athlete I've ever coached. He is quite honestly a legend to us."

Paylor's injury left him paralyzed from the neck down and his doctor told him he would never walk or move his hands for the rest of his life. In the weeks that followed, he battled pneumonia and an inability to swallow or breathe independently, dropping 60 pounds over the course of a month. Once he was stabilized, he was transported to Craig Hospital in Denver, Colo., where he entered a rehabilitation program at their world-renowned facility.
The following year, Paylor returned to Berkeley to resume his studies at the Haas School of Business. He will graduate from the program on May 16 and will speak at the Cal Athletics virtual ceremony, dubbed the Cal Athletic Senior Celebration & Recognition of Student-Athlete Success. Over the past two months, he has reached significant milestones in his recovery. In March, he was able to stand on his feet and walk across Witter Rugby Field with the aid of a walker for the first time since his injury. A week later, he was able to get out of his bed and into his walker on his own. Then, on April 24, he stood up out of a car into his walker for the first time as well. These three videos posted on his personal twitter have received more than 2.2 million combined views and thousands of comments of support.
"I feel so honored to be receiving this award," said Paylor. "The last three years have been filled with many challenges, and to be recognized for my hard work and perseverance is a tremendous privilege. To be in the ranks of Wilma Rudolph and past award recipients is both humbling and inspiring, as they have shown such courage in overcoming great adversity. I feel so blessed and grateful to have made it to this moment. None of this would have been possible without the support of my family, coaches, teammates, and the amazing community that have been with me every step of the way. They have carried me to achieve great things and have given me an amazing life."
Today marks 1,101 days since Paylor's injury and he continues to improve every day. He is now using his experiences and learnings to embark on a career in public speaking. His purpose is to share his story and the methods he uses to overcome quadriplegia, so he may inspire others to access their full potential and conquer their challenges no matter how daunting they may seem.