Bryan Kirkland Was On Top Of The World Before His Spinal Cord Injury

Bryan Kirkland was an avid basketball player during his high school and college days.

Bryan Kirkland was an avid basketball player during his high school and college days.

Editor’s Note: When Bryan Kirkland of Leeds, Alabama, lay in the dirt after a tragic motocross accident, he hoped he only had a pinched nerve. But when he discovered that he had a spinal cord injury and never would walk or probably play sports again, this 6’5” 205 pound athlete thought his world was over. The last place he ever thought he would be years later was on the stage with some of the greatest athletes his home state ever had produced. One of the most successful Paralympians ever with gold, silver and bronze medals in wheelchair rugby and a gold medal in the World Games’ track and field, Kirkland was selected to be enshrined in the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in May 2012. He also broke the barrier for wheelchair athletes to be inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame and opened the door for more wheelchair athletes to be recognized across in the United States. Part 1 of a 5 part series.

40 year old Bryan Kirkland was on top of the world when he graduated from high school. As Kirkland remembers, “When I was in high school, I played football, basketball and baseball. In football, I played defensive end and was the punter. On the basketball team, I was the center and power forward and was elected player of the year. I played baseball my senior year, but football and basketball were my main sports and where I lettered.” Because of his prowess as a basketball player, Kirkland was awarded a scholarship to Jefferson State Junior College near his home and played there for one year, before the school discontinued the team.

In high school, he’d played around with motocross but never got too involved with it due to his high school’s athletic program. “But when I was 20, I bought my first motorcycle and found out motocross racing was a lot of fun,” Kirkland explains. “I got a rush throttling up on my motorcycle and trying to run to the front of the pack. I rode trails through the woods, and then did dirt track racing, which included going over moguls and jumping the motorcycle. Once on the last lap of the Tri-State Championship, I was in the lead. Another competitor got past me. He won, and I came in second. By this time I was getting pretty serious about dirt track motocross racing and was running a Kawasaki KX 250.”

Bryan Kirkland thought he was on top of the world.

Bryan Kirkland thought he was on top of the world.

When Kirkland was on his Kawasaki, he felt the need for speed, danger and that up-in-the-air thrill that one finds when he jumps a mogul and hangs in the air, suspended between heaven and earth. Kirkland always had been an athlete, and now he’d found a new sport where he excelled and believed that one day he possibly could race on the national circuit. Kirkland had been successful in every sport he’d ever attempted to play. He had the body frame of a super athlete – tall, strong and quick. He had no reason to believe that he couldn’t be successful in motocross, just like he’d been in football and basketball. But motocross was not to become the sport of his dreams. Motocross was the sport that destroyed his dreams of being a world class athlete.

Next: Bryan Kirkland’s Devastating Motocross Injury Lead To Intense Rehabilitation

About the Author: For the last 12 years, John E. Phillips of Vestavia, Alabama, has been a professional blogger for major companies, corporations and tourism associations throughout the nation. During his 24 years as Outdoor Editor for “The Birmingham Post-Herald” newspaper, he published more than 7,000 newspaper columns and sold more than 100,000 of his photos to newspapers, magazines and internet sites. He also hosted a radio show that was syndicated at 27 radio stations; created, wrote and sold a syndicated newspaper column that ran in 38 newspapers for more than a decade; and wrote and sold more than 30 books. Learn more at

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