Sharing his life experiences, Houston High School graduate Shaquille Vance visited Houston Lower Elementary School to give a motivational speech to the students. Vance discussed the rocky road that led him to the bright future he has today.
Vance was a three-sport athlete at HHS and was being recruited to play football at Mississippi State University when an unexpected knee injury ended with an amputation of his right leg at the knee.
“After about eight or twelve hours of surgery, I woke up and saw my leg missing. Then I wondered, what am I going to do now,” said Vance.
All that was on his mind was playing football.
Once Vance was released from medical treatment and still trying to get used to his prosthetic leg, his coach gave him words of encouragement. Finally, he asked his coach when he would be able to play football or run track again.
“Coach told me I would never play sports again,” said Vance.
Shaquille refused to give up and kept his faith in himself and the Lord.
“I’m a firm believer in God,” Vance said.
His classmates thought he would be home-schooled but he continued his attendance at HHS despite being different from other students.
“Having one leg makes me different,” Vance said. “It makes me who I am.”
Vance received a Facebook message from a marathon association in Jackson asking if he would like to compete. He wasn’t certain about running at first but with encouragement from his mother he did – and won.
Although his opportunities in football were lost in the accident, Vance did everything in his power to become successful in the game of life.
“Even though I got football taken away from me, this was meant for me,” Vance said. “God gave me this for a reason.”
Vance’s racing led to running in the Paralympics in London and France. The London race left him “speechless” at the number of people in attendance. Although he has enjoyed his career in racing, one of his life goals is to “stay smart,” and he encouraged the students at HLES to hold education as their goal and never give up, in spite of obstacles in their paths.
“No matter what you go through in life, there’s a way through it,” Vance said. “There’s too much to endure in life to just give up. In life, you go through milestones. You got to keep your head up-right and have faith in yourself and you will be able to conquer and fulfill even your biggest dreams in life to become successful.”
HLES Principal and former HHS assistant football coach Robert Winters said Vance is a welcome visitor to the school.
“Shaquille is a very special person to me,” Winters said. “I’m so proud of Shaquille. We really enjoyed and appreciated him coming and talking to the kids.”
Vance’s parting advise to students was to always make good decisions in life and always keep faith in themselves.