- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 27, 2001

Guilian Gary's football future was in question as he was flown from Maryland's practice field with a possible spinal cord injury during a preseason practice. The senior wide receiver's mind was racing with all kinds of worse-case scenarios as the helicopter took him to the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore.
"All I could see was a propeller going around and around and thinking 'Get me out of this thing. What am I doing? Why is this happening to me?'" Gary recalled of the terrifying incident that left teammates openly weeping and family members praying.
Three months later the charismatic wideout was again the center of attention. This time, it was for stretching out and tiptoeing into the end zone while making one of the biggest plays in Maryland football history.
Gary's touchdown reception with 41 seconds left gave the Terps a 23-19 win over N.C. State to earn the ACC title, a 10-1 record and ultimately a trip to the Orange Bowl. After the catch, he was again lifted skyward this time by ecstatic teammates who were wildly celebrating around the Terps' receiver.
"It's unbelievable," said Maryland quarterback Shaun Hill, who threw the 8-yard pass that is now part of Maryland folklore. "You have a near-fatal spine injury one day, and the next day you are getting ready to play a collision sport again. He goes out there without any reservations and literally puts his neck on the line every game. He takes a lot of pops. He's the one that runs across the middle."
Brenda Gary will never forget getting the shakes when hearing her youngest child was being rushed to the hospital. She will also remember the roar from those around her when her baby boy's catch sealed the Terps' victory.
"I almost lost my mind," Brenda Gary said. "That catch was ridiculous. The season that started out so scary ended so beautifully … Guilian has walked through his fears this season to get to the other side. He has mastered how to do that."
Guilian's journey began as he lay motionless for 45 minutes on Aug.21. The team was practicing at half-speed when he fell and hit his head on a defender's knee, jolted backward and awkwardly struck his head on the ground.
"My body was actually numb," said Gary. "It wasn't pain. I didn't feel parts of my body. For the first eight minutes, I didn't feel my legs or my arms. Then I felt pinches all over as feeling was coming back."
Gary took a battery of tests, including an MRI, before being cleared of major injury and released from the hospital later that night. He returned to practice in street clothes the next day and was treated, "like some famous person they had never seen before" by his relieved and thrilled teammates. The wideout sat three days with a sore neck before going through light workouts and fully returning the next week.
There was a momentary question of whether he would return at all.
"We went out to lunch and I said, 'Son, if you have any fear at all don't play anymore,'" Brenda Gary said. "I said, 'Don't come back because you don't want to let the family down. You shouldn't do it unless you love it with all your heart and you are willing to sacrifice anything for it.' The truth was, none of us thought he wouldn't play again."
They were right. Guilian never seriously considered leaving football and was back the following week for the season opener.
The receiver and punt returner from Horseheads, N.Y., made two catches in that win over North Carolina, but didn't feel he had recovered emotionally from the trauma until the following week.
"It was definitely more mental than physical," Gary said of the recovery. "When I realized that, things started coming back for me. Against Eastern Michigan, I took a pretty good shot on a punt return. I think that helped me out."
After that scary moment silenced the Byrd Stadium crowd, Guilian sprang up and pointed toward his family while the Terps faithful cheered gleefully.
"He beat his chest as if to say he was fine," said Brenda Gary, who held her breath fearing another nightmare. "We were relieved and he was relieved, too. He was fine. After that, it got to the point where he felt sort of invincible."
Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen had not been impressed with Gary before the injury and demoted him to second team. The senior is modestly built (6-foot, 190 pounds) and doesn't have breakaway speed. What he does have is great hands and a knack for getting open. Absorbing that shot on the punt return showed Friedgen that Gary had the toughness worthy of a No.1 receiver.
"He got hit pretty good and kind of showed me something," Friedgen said. "All the trainers wanted him to come out. He just kind of laughed and waved it off. I like that in a football player. … What he went through this fall speaks to his desire to play football."
Gary was back to his reckless self. He matched a then career-high of six catches for 76 yards in the second game against Eastern Michigan, including an over-the-shoulder touchdown catch in the Terps' 50-3 romp.
He made 49 catches during the regular season for 727 yards and six touchdowns, but will always be remembered for breaking the Wolfpack. Gary set a career-high with seven receptions with two touchdowns both in the second half that fateful night in Raleigh, N.C. His scoring catch was just over the goal line and inside the right pylon, giving the Terps and himself a fairy tale ending.
"There is no way I could stay out," said Gary. "A lot of things could've happened. I could've been injured for this. I just wanted to play and be a part of this in my last year. We knew we had something. We didn't know it was going to be this special. There is no better way for me to go out than going to the BCS and being a part of it."

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