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Former local football player recalls his devastating injury
Rochester, N.Y.--Ralph Montemalo said he knew immediately after the block, that he would never walk again.
He was playing for St. John Fisher College. It was September, 19, 1981. He was blocking during a kick return and his helmet got caught in the other player's jersey.
His neck snapped back.
"I just remember the impact falling back knowing I was paralyzed right away," Montemalo told 13 WHAM.
While he doesn't love football like he once did, Montemalo doesn't regret playing and would do it again. He said injuries like his are freak and can occur while doing any sport.
He sometimes speaks to high school students encouraging them to remain positive, do what they love and live their lives.
It's advice that has gotten him through tough times and dark days.
His biggest worry after being told he would never walk again was that he would be a burden to his parents and brother.
Now that his father is ill, Montemalo said he takes pride in being able to care for his father, after years of him taking care of him.
Montemalo was saddened to hear about 16 year-old Damon Janes, who died after suffering a football injury at a game in Chautauqua County last Friday night.
He said it's sad, heartbreaking and hard to swallow.
He said his parents were told he might not survive and if he did, that he would live his life in a wheelchair.
Montemalo said he sometimes gets down like everyone else but knows he has to keep going, so he does.
He is surrounded by friends who help him and give him rides. And said while this injury was life-changing, it didn't affect his speech or brain function, so for that he is grateful.