Georgetown University linebacker Ty Williams dreamed of one day being able to walk across the stage at his own graduation just two-and-a-half years after a devastating injury during a football game left him paralyzed.
On Saturday, Williams’ dream came true in front of hundreds of families and friends inside the McDonough Gymnasium. As his name was called he was pushed onto the stage in his wheelchair until, with the help of two women, he lifted himself up and began his walk across the stage.
With a walker to guide his steps, Williams made his way toward university President John DeGioia. The two embraced as DeGioia handed the student his diploma.
Williams’ journey to the commencement stage was not easy. One game changed the course of his time in undergrad as a football player. During his sophomore year, Williams was playing in the season opener game against Saint Francis University in Pennsylvania when a defensive tackle went wrong -- breaking five bones in Williams’ neck and vertebrae.
Through years of routine rehabilitation in order to regain movement in his upper and lower body, Williams never let his paralysis stop him from being a part of the college experience and a support for his teammates. Once able to return, Williams regularly attended games and practices -- even becoming team captain.
“They tell you what heals, will heal, whenever it decides to, so there’s no guarantee that I ever get [better] ... I could stop healing today and that’d be it unfortunately, but fortunately that has not been the case,” Williams told the university paper, The Hoya.
The commencement walk was shared by the university and has since inspired thousands of viewers, many of them students and faculty, proud to have witnessed the emotional moment of determination.
Williams told ABC News, "Graduation was everything I wanted it to be and more. I was able to accomplish a goal I've had for a long time, and what made it even better is that I was surrounded by the people who care about me."
Although his road to recovery is uncertain, Williams continues to be a role model for his team and make an impact on others.