KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — A man who survived an alcohol-induced crash is raising awareness about drinking and driving. April is Alcohol and Distracted Driving Awareness Month. The number one most dangerous type of distracted driving is texting, with the second being driving under the influence of alcohol.
Blake McMeans crashed on the Cumberland Avenue strip in Knoxville in 1994. He lived through that experience and now talks to students about the dangers of drinking and driving.
Drinking and driving could change your future in an instant. McMeans was one of the top five tennis players in the nation. He said he regrets his mistake but can't go back to change what happened. He now travels to schools hoping to educate students and keep them from making the same mistake.
"Growing up, Blake was very popular. I would say that he was pretty well known in the town for being someone who is athletic and definitely the big man on campus in his class," Blake's sister Blair McMeans said.
Blake McMeans was introduced to tennis by his father, who spent time with him on the courts after finishing his football career at the University of Tennessee.
"Blake was a phenomenal tennis player as a junior. I don't really remember a time when he was not the top tennis player in Tennessee and one of the top five tennis players in the nation as well," Blair said.
Blake's father unexpectedly died when he was 16 years old.
"The impact of our father dying on our family was dramatic. Blake was struggling. He was going out more. He was probably drinking more trying to numb that void that he's felt just a little bit," Blair said.
Blake had scholarship offers from across the country but chose to commit to UT so he could be close to his family. But three months before, he got behind the wheel of a car after a night of drinking.
"I remember hearing the phone ring and just my mom breaking into screaming and sobbing," Blair said.
Blake ran off the road, hit a tree and flipped three times. "I didn't break a bone, just hit my head," Blake said.
He had to re-learn everything. How to swallow, how to sit and stand. Doctors didn't expect him to make it to where he is now.
"I think that the only explanation for that is the incredible work ethic that he learned in athletics," Blair said.
Blake eventually became an assistant coach at Montgomery Bell Academy in Nashville.
"They say a picture is worth a thousand words. You saw a picture of what can happen to a person that decides to drink and drive," Blake said.
Today, Blake McMeans champions drinking and driving prevention in the state. He is expected to visit schools in Knoxville next month.
To learn more about Blake's story, click here.