Jerry Baylor of Leechburg Pennsylvania admits that his grizzled looks and competitive attitude can scare some people. He has tattoos on both arms from his wrists to his shoulders, a long thick beard, and the tenacity of a WWF wrestler. According to friends, he is a maniac athlete – but don’t let his looks or tenacity fool you. He’s all heart.
MobilityWorks client Jerry Baylor, known more reverently as “Bull”, was named the Spirit of the Games Award winner at this year’s National Veterans Wheelchair Games held this past week in Pittsburgh. Jerry was recognized “for his personal determination, work ethic, and encouragement of other wheelchair-using veterans to get active”. In addition to competing in the track & field games this year, he also played a key role in organizing the event as Sports Director for the Keystone Chapter of the Paralyzed Veterans of America (KPVA).
Jerry earned his nickname Bull while in junior high school playing football. He would tear up the grass on the field with his hands while playing on the defensive line. Despite being 64 years old, the nickname still fits him well. Jerry has participated in nearly 20 wheelchair games dating back to 1981, less than a year from when he was paralyzed. Since then, his words of encouragement have personally helped to bring scores of other veteran athletes to the games.
A marine veteran, Jerry served in the military from 1966 to 1970. In 1980 a car with faulty brakes hit Jerry while he was out riding on his motorcycle. Despite the life-changing spinal cord injury and being a quadriplegic, his athletic spirit kept him going. Jerry gives a lot of credit to the Pittsburgh Steelwheelers, a local wheelchair basketball and rugby sports team with encouraging him to keep fighting after the accident. He also pays tribute to his days as a marine with providing him the right attitude. “I tell people it’s just a learning experience. You can keep going”.
Jerry estimates that he has logged over 250 miles of training in his racing chair for distance track events since April, in addition to participating in competitions. He took home gold medals at the Veterans Games in the javelin, discus and 100-meter manual wheelchair race, in addition to silver medals in the shotput and weightlifting events. Next year’s National Veterans Wheelchair Games will be held in Richmond Virginia June 25-30, where Jerry first started to compete in wheelchair sports.
Congratulations Bull, you are a shining example to us all.
Note: MobilityWorks was an official Silver Sponsor of the 31st Annual National Veterans Wheelchair Games.