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White Station track and field star signs with Christian Brothers University three years after near-fatal car crash

Through relentless commitment, Tylan Williams overcame a terrifying head injury, returned to the track and earned a college scholarship

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The biggest hurdles are often the ones we don't see coming. 

This was the message from White Station track and field head coach Kevaughn Griffith, to the several dozen gathered to celebrate senior Tylan Williams' signing day.

"You are going to come across situations and instances where you have to overcome obstacles," Griffith proclaimed. "Which is what hurdling is all about."

Before committing to run 400-meter hurdles for the Div. II Christian Brothers University, Tylan faced an obstacle that was almost too high to clear.

The youngest of five, he followed in his brothers' footsteps and joined Boy Scouts. In his freshman year at White Station, he ran track and played football—that one made his mom nervous.

 "I was just afraid he might get hurt sometime," said Kiwayna Williams, Tylan's mother. 

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That fear was realized in the summer of 2019, and it was no game.

His Boy Scout troop was coming back from a camping trip. They were on the highway in Arkansas when the driver, Tylan's scout master, had a medical emergency.

"He blacked out," Tylan explains. "And then all of the sudden, we're going across the oncoming traffic on the other side of the highway. It was a big 18-wheeler that was coming from the oncoming traffic. We didn't get hit by that, thank God. But as we crashed we slammed into this one big tree."

Miraculously, everyone survived the crash. But a piece of the car pierced Tylan's skull and lodged three inches into his brain.

"I went into shock," he said. "I was blessed that we're Boy Scouts that I had great friends that were able to take care of me until the helicopter came."

It was a beautiful sunny morning. His parents were going for a Saturday morning walk at Shelby Farms when they received the call that Tylan was being airlifted to Regional One.

"I was weak in the knees," Kiwayna said. "It was traumatic."

"As a parent, you go through the emotions of stress, tears, emotions and everything," said Trennie Williams, Tylan's father. "Thinking about what's happening next."

Taken into emergency surgery, doctors were able to remove the shard, amazingly, with minimal damage to his brain.

"The chief surgeon said, 'Hey, there must be a plan for his life.'" Trennie said with a smile. "And I said, 'Yes there is.'"

There was a long road ahead, beginning with a first step.

"When I took those first few steps in the ICU, it was pretty hard." He recalled. "I was sweating from walking 30 feet down the hallway and back to my room. I was wondering to myself if I would be able to do the things I could before."

There were two follow-up procedures, undergoing the latter to have a titanium plate placed in his head.

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Contact sports were no longer an option, but two years after the accident, Tylan's focus shifted to conditioning.

Trennie enlisted the help of Tommy Washington, who trained Tylan three-to-four days each week last summer, molding him back into game shape.

"He had that never say die attitude," Washington said. "He never wanted to quit no matter what. He was determined like that. He was that kind of kid."

As the summer wore on, Tylan grew stronger.

"The speed started coming back, and before you knew it," Washington said, pausing to snap his fingers. "He was there."

Tylan returned to track this spring, helping to lead the Spartans to a city championship.

He earned five athletic scholarship offers despite missing his sophomore and junior seasons, graduated with a 4.24 GPA, and is in the final stages of becoming an Eagle Scout.

"It's been worth the journey," Kiwayna said. "Just being able to witness how he has excelled throughout the past couple years has been great."

"I knew my life wasn't done," Tylan said. "I knew there was more for me to do. I was just blessed to be able to keep living and thriving."

Sometimes, it's not about the hurdles we face or the falls we take. It's about the resilience to get up and finish the race.

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