Any longtime football fan will immediately recognize the name of Paul “Bear” Bryant. He is considered the winningest coach in football history, bringing The University of Alabama to a record six national championships and thirteen conference wins. (A record that might be broken by the current Alabama football coach Nick Saban.)
Bear Bryant, like most football coaches, was notoriously tough on his players. But not even this bear could hide his soft side forever.
In 1974, Texas Christian University (TCU) football player Kent Waldrep was playing football against Alabama at Birmingham’s Legion Field. As a college student, Waldrep could not imagine the impact that a single football play would have on the rest of his life.
“Red right, Power 28!”
Alabama tacklers swarmed Waldrep, where he fell head first, paralyzing him from the shoulders down. Kent Waldrop would never walk off a football field again.
Waldrep didn’t realize that a bear had been watching only a few feet away.
Bear Bryant was so affected by witnessing this injury that he visited Waldrep in his hospital several times. After Waldrep was transferred to a Texas hospital, Bear Bryant kept in touch.
Bear Bryant went a step further and made Waldrep an honorary member of the “A-Club,” an Alabama athlete exclusive community. He also promised Waldrep that if he should have children, they would be able to receive the Bear Bryant scholarship at the University of Alabama—which is a football player-exclusive scholarship.
Though this would make the perfect end to a Friday Night Lights tv episode, Waldrep’s story is far from over.
At 19 years old, Waldrep was told by doctors that he would never have children or be able to move from the neck down again.
“They didn’t even give me a chance to try!” Waldrep said. But Waldrep proved them wrong.
Waldrep married and had two children, Trey and Charley, who would eventually be awarded the Bear Bryant Scholarship Fund at the University of Alabama. They are the first non-Alabama football player descendants ever to be awarded this scholarship.
Waldrep has also served his community as an advocate for disability research over the last several decades.
He founded The Paralysis Foundation and the Kent Waldrep Foundation Center for Basic Neuroscience Research with the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. Waldrep also serves as a grant committee chairman of the College Football Assistance Fund, which provides financial aid to injured athletes, along with numerous other organizations.
One of the biggest thrills of Waldrep’s life was when he was appointed Vice-Chair to the National Council on Disability during the Reagan and Bush administrations. During his tenure, he helped draft the groundbreaking Americans with Disabilities Act, the first civil rights law to address discrimination against individuals with disabilities.
Waldrep has raised 30 million dollars for spinal cord research throughout his years of service.
However, due to his injuries, Kent needs assistance with his activities of daily living. Waldrep has been a client at Outreach Health Services, a home care agency headquartered in Richardson, for over 6 years. Juanita House serves as Waldrep’s caregiver. Juanita comes to Waldrep’s home several times per week for a few hours to provide care.
House is more than a caregiver, she is also a companion. “Listening to music and trading recipes are some of the things Kent and I do together,” said House. “Keeping him safe, healthy and happy is my honor.”
Juanita House is one of Outreach Health Service’s long-time caregivers, working with those in need for over 13 years. She has received several awards (such as Caregiver of the Year) during her tenure at Outreach.
“Juanita is so humble and loves talking about the fun she has with her clients, ” said Liz Roberts, Outreach Administrator. “Her care gives Kent a better quality of life and allows him to remain in his home – she is a true hero. ”
Looking back, Kent Waldrep had greatness thrust upon him in 1974. Without his injury, he could not have contributed to a policy that affects millions of people with disabilities.
Outreach Health Services is proud to a client who has influenced legislation, raised millions for research and been a voice for so many.