By AMBER MEAGER firstname.lastname@example.org
Tyler Wilkinson, a former high school football star whose life changed after an accident confined him to a wheelchair, addressed students Jan. 13, on how to choose a positive attitude when faced with challenges in our lives.
"Every single person in this room has challenges. It doesn't matter what challenges they are, they are hard," Wilkinson said. "Sometimes we have harder challenges at certain times in our lives than others."
Students filled the seats and the lined the walls of the JSB to hear Wilkinson speak as a part of Disability Awareness Week.
In 1992, Wilkinson fell asleep at the wheel on the way to Springville to visit his girlfriend, Jennifer. His truck rolled, and he broke his neck.
Earlier that year, Wilkinson received all-state honors in three sports during his senior year at Dixie High in St. George and had earned scholarships to play football and baseball in college.
The tragic accident left Wilkinson a quadriplegic.
Wilkinson said he understands what it is like to be physically challenged.
"I got a crash course in disability awareness," Wilkinson said.
After his accident, Wilkinson received a four-year degree from Southern Utah University in business and married his high school sweetheart, Jennifer, in the St. George Temple. They now have a son together.
"Jennifer was really nervous about being married to a guy like me," Wilkinson said. "But the things that were really important to us were not football or dancing, it was the gospel."
Wilkinson used humor to relate stories about his life and how he faces his challenges.
"Here's my situation. I look at it positively and make it that much better," Wilkinson said.
There are two kinds of challenges in life, those that just fall in your lap and some that come from choices, Wilkinson said.
"Either way, you choose how you deal with it. It can bring you down, or you can have fun with it," Wilkinson said.
Tyler uses laughter to deal with many of his challenges, Jennifer Wilkinson said.
"You can cry, or you can laugh. Tyler has a tendency to laugh more," Jennifer Wilkinson said.
Wilkinson does not consider being a quadriplegic an important part of his life.
"Life is school. Life is getting married. Life is having a little boy. The neatest part of my life has happened in the last nine years," Wilkinson said.
"I think the purpose of Tyler's message was to think of the good things in your life instead of dwelling on the bad," said Christine McAllister, program director for Disability Awareness week.
BYU students should always remember their freedom to choose how they handle their challenges, Wilkinson said after his speech.