As published on WVUA 23 News on Sept. 27, 2022.
Kent Waldrep was a running back for Texas Christian University when, in 1974 while playing against the University of Alabama, he experienced a life-changing injury that left him paralyzed from the neck down.
Now, the Bryant Museum is honoring his advocacy for people with disabilities and his love for the Crimson Tide by hosting a “Celebration of Kent Waldrep’s Life.” The event was held Friday, Sept. 23, to thank the UA family for their support over the last 48 years.
“Alabama’s just taken care of us, of our entire family so much,” youngest son Charley Waldrep said. “We’re forever indebted and forever grateful for everything this university and the people in this state have done for us.”
Friends, players, coaches, and medical staff who were present at the time of Waldrep’s injury gathered to discuss their fond memories of the former player, most notably his relationship with legendary football coach Paul W. “Bear” Bryant and the role he played in Waldrep’s advocacy for people with disabilities. Bryant also ensured Waldrep’s two sons could attend Alabama on a scholarship for the children of UA football players.
“When he was injured and in the hospital, Coach Bryant came every day and talked to him and they just developed this close friendship,” Lynn Waldrep said about her late husband. “Coach Bryant became almost like a surrogate father to him, helping encourage him to reach out to people in the disabled community.”
After his injury, Waldrep went on to help codify the Americans with Disabilities Act and raised money for spinal cord research with the intent to find a cure for paralysis. He was named one of the top 10 men in America by the U.S. Jaycees.
“I think that’s probably what he would say he was most passionate about,” eldest son Trey Waldrep said. “Stepping up and helping individual people who suffered similar injuries.”
Kent Waldrep passed away at age 67, but his legacy lives on, as does his love for the University of Alabama.