Joe Rhea
Not Your Average Joe


From: James Zegers, MA, ATC.
Assistant Director of Athletics for Sports Medicine
Molloy College, Rockville Centre, NY
October 11, 2013

Link: Motivational Speaker Joe Rhea Returns to Talk to Molloy Student Athletes

To Whom It May Concern:

Recently, we were lucky enough to have Mr. Joe Rhea return to Molloy College for a presentation to our Department of Athletics, Student-Athletes and Student Government. The subject couldn't have been more appropriate or delivered in a more meaningful, powerful way. Joe's presentation is titled "Bars, Cars, and Catastrophes," and speaks to the destructive things that are possible when people make bad decisions with regards to drinking and driving, and overall reckless, irresponsible behavior.

But Joe's story is also one of perseverance and dedication as he overcame his own catastrophic spinal cord injury while playing high school football. One thing that left an impression on me is how Joe detailed the moment he fractured his spine on that field, doing something he had done hundreds of times, and how your life can change forever in an instant. For some the damage could have been permanent but he worked hard, harder than I'm sure anyone could imagine, and he was lucky. As I said it could not have been more powerful.

I appreciate a speaker who is honest and who cares about those listening, and Joe undoubtedly does. I also know a speaker has left an impression when the students are still talking about it days later, and that has been the case both times Joe visited our campus. I recommend him without any hesitation to anyone looking for a similar outcome.

Truly yours,
James Zegers, MA, ATC

From: Murphy Grant
Assistant AD
University of Kansas
October 6, 2013

Please accept this letter of recommendation for Joe Rhea. Joe came to the University of Kansas in October to speak with our student-athletes. Each year we bring in a speaker around Fall break to educate our student-athletes about the use of drugs and alcohol. Joe was very impactful and captivating as a speaker. I strongly recommend that you consider him as a resource for getting the message across to any audience, about thinking before you get behind the wheel of a car.

As Joe began telling his story and the stories of others he has come into contact with, our student-athletes were completely captivated. I have never seen such a quiet yet intrigued group of 300 plus student-athletes. As the chair for our drug and alcohol education in the athletic department, I arrange for speakers on a regular basis. I can honestly say that Joe has been one of the most powerful speakers that I have seen.

After Joe left our campus, we had a lot of great feedback from both the student-athletes, and from our coaches.. All of the feedback from the coaches was the things that they had heard from their respective teams. It has opened up a lot of dialouge from our team leaders here here at KU.

The personal story that Joe shared could be felt by every athlete in that room. He spoke from the heart. His message came through honest and strong.

Joe is a captivating speaker and this can be exemplified by the experience that he had on our campus. Being University Kansas Alum he felt at home and wanted to make sure that he touched the lives of his audience.

In the setting in which I work, taking care of student-athletes health and healing with what life brings them is something we see on a daily basis. As Joe spoke to our student-athletes it was definite that his message was received! I believe his message will save lives.

Think excellence,
Murphy Grant

From: Jennifer Bagley
Head Softball Coach
Missouri Western State University
July 25, 2011

To whom it may concern:

Please accept this letter of recommendation for Joe Rhea. Joe came to Missouri Western State University last spring and spoke to all of our student athletes. Joe was impacting, personable, and captivating as a speaker. I strongly recommend that you consider him as a resource for getting the message across to think before you get behind the wheel of a car.

When Joe got in front of our 300 student athletes and began to tell his story, it was extremely impacting. In my capacity as the Life Skills coordinator, I arrange for speakers on a regular basis. I can honestly say, that when Joe spoke, that was the most quiet I have ever seen our group. After Joe left our campus, I had a number of athletes stop by my office to talk about the message they heard. It opened up a dialog in a way that other speakers have not been able to accomplish.

The personal story that Joe shared could be felt by every athlete in that room. He spoke from the heart. His message came through as honest, humble, and strong.

Joe's ability to be a captivating speaker can be exemplified by the specific experience he had on our campus. His presentation required a power point and video capability. When the lighting element burned out of our equipment making it impossible to have any of Joe's visual aids, he adjusted on the spot. From his memory, he began to tell his story. Alone, on a stage, in a dark auditorium, in front of 300 student athletes, he silenced the room and captivated his audience.

Since his visit to campus, I have been approached by student athletes about whether we were going to be able to have Joe come back to speak. They were not only interested to hear him again, but wanted to make sure that incoming freshmen and transfers heard the message as well.

In our particular venue, Joe spoke to student athletes. However, Joe's message transcends the athletic world and can speak to anyone. As I began this letter, I would strongly encourage you to take advantage of Joe's message. I believe his message saves lives.

Jennifer Bagley

From: Meghan Kavanauh
Associate Director of Athletics, SWA
University of Bridgeport
November 10, 2010

This past fall semester we had the privilege of bringing Joe Rhea to our campus. As an Associate Athletic Director, one of my many jobs is to bring a speaker to campus that will make a difference in the lives of young athletes. If that is your job as well, then Joe Rhea is the speaker you want to bring to campus. Never have I heard so many young athletes so quiet and tuned in. Joe has a delivery style that feels like he is having a conversation with them. It helps a great deal that Joe was also an athlete, and can relate to what they go through as student-athletes. His message is unique and powerful, and his story is truly amazing. Even months later I still have athletes talk about Joe's story and his overcoming adversity. We were all very happy to have had Joe Rhea come to the University of Bridgeport, and we look forward to bringing him back in the near future.

Meghan Kavanagh

From: Keith Carodine, PhD.
Senior Associate Athletics Director, Academic Affairs
University of Florida
October 21, 2010

Several of our student athletes from across sports informed me that this was the best educational seminar they have attended since being a student athlete at the University of Florida. Another student told me, "We needed to hear this message — some people need to stop and think about what they are doing." Joe had the students complete attention throughout the program and it was obvious they were reflecting on the presentation. One of our Assistant Ad's told me at the end that Joe's presentation definitely "saved some peoples lives tonight." Our AD stayed for the program and said this was a great program for our student athletes.

Thanks again.


From: Brandi (Ankney) Laurita
Senior Woman Administrator
The University of Findlay Department of Athletics
October 20, 2010

"The University of Findlay was pleased to have Joe Rhea speak to both our student-athletes and our freshmen experience classes about choices and opportunities. "Cars, Bars, and Catastrophes" was both heart wrenching and thought provoking as Joe's Personal story touched our students on a personal level. The University of Findlay Athletic Department would highly recommend Joe as a dynamic speaker with an inspirational message."

From: Cindy Tozer
Director, Academic Services for Athletics
Eastern Illinois University, Charleston, IL
October 14, 2010

Mr. Rhea spoke with our student-athletes and his focus was on choices, opportunities, and overcoming obstacles. He message, coupled with his own story of tragedy and recovery, and the similarities of his childhood ambitions to the ambitions of our students really made his presentation very powerful. Each one of our student-athletes could relate to him because they shared a common goal and a drive to be the best that they could in their particular sport. Even though, Mr. Rhea could not pursue his goals as an athlete due to a tragic event early in his life, he still had the competitive drive and the goal each day to be better than he was the day before.

Mr. Rhea has now spoken to our athletes twice in the last 4 years and both times he was very well received. Some of our student-athletes approached him after his presentation to talk with him further. We will definitely welcome him back in the near future!

Joe Rhea speaks at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, IL

From: Kristina A. Therriault
Assistant Athletic Director
Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, IL
September 14, 2010

Hi Joe,

Below are the comments regarding the two programs presented at Southern Illinois University to our student-athletes. On behalf of my staff, I would once again like to thank you for the message that was sent to our student-athletes. Unfortunately, one of our freshman football student-athletes, lost his best friend on Sunday due to alcohol consumption. Such a tragedy for this young man, his friends and family. I hope this opens up the eyes of our student-athletes even more to know it can happen to anybody, anytime, anywhere.

Bars, Cars and Catastrophes:

Joe Rhea put a very real issue into a very real perspective. It has made some of our student-athletes vow to use designated drivers. Not only is his story inspirational and convincing, but his message delivers realism is a very unique way. There was such honesty in Joe's message it captivated a room full of 18-23 year olds. By using very effective media, Joe put a wide spread problem into a different view. Our student-athletes, along with our staff, are thankful to have met Joe Rhea and to have heard his presentation. He has already changed many peoples' outlooks on certain activities and will hopefully continue to impact our university in the same manner.

Freshmen Now:

Joe Rhea not only delivered a captivating and inspirational story about his life, but also conveyed how to set goals, follow your dreams and attain your wishes from a practical perspective. Joe is very informed on issues and concerns of young adults attending college for the first time, and he addressed some of these issues while being efficient and appealing. Our freshman student-athletes have given us very positive feedback on Joe Rhea's presentation. They were all captivated and excited to be a part of this night, and will continue to carry Joe's message with them.

From: Aimee M. Aluzzo
Assistant Athletics Director / Compliance
Iona College, New York
November, 2009

Hello Everyone,

I just wanted to let everyone know that last week we brought Joe Rhea to Iona College to speak about his presentation Bars, Cars and Catastrophes. I highly recommend Joe Rhea. Some of the feedback from the student-athletes was that they were happy not to have another person standing in front of them telling them not to drink. Others told me they now think twice about putting their seatbelt on as soon as they get into the car. Joe uses real life personal stories along with very strong videos to get his message across about making appropriate decisions and how decisions you make can affect you for the rest of your life.

A few of you had recommended Joe Rhea a few months back as a great speaker to host on your campus and I just want to say Thank You for the recommendation. If anyone is looking to bring an alcohol awareness speaker to their campus Joe Rhea comes highly recommended.

You can find out more information about Joe Rhea and his presentation on his website:

Thank you,

From: Betty Wiseman
Belmont University
November 12, 2009

I met with our Student-Athlete Advisory Committee yesterday and they gave positive reviews/feedback from your presentation. The following are comments that can be used as testimonials:

"It wasn't the usual Alcohol-Drug Seminar, that's for sure."

"It was different — he was passionate about his message — made us think."

"I have thought about what he said several times, especially when I get into my car."

One of our men's teams: "When our team gets into a van to travel someone always says, 'Remember our speaker – buckle up,' and we all now wear our seatbelts. That never would have happened before."

"The video clips shocked me and made me think, and I don't think I would have ever been exposed to that kind of reality otherwise."

"I think our entire campus of students should have the opportunity to see this."

"He made it clear that it is all about the choices we make."

"He was different. At first he was just a speaker, but at some point that changed — we were connected. The message rang loud and clear."

I believe the student-athletes' comments speak for themselves! I'm copy Mr. Strickland, our Athletic Director. I believe he would be interested in these comments.


From: Jamie Foster, MS, ATC
Head Athletic Trainer
Rockhurst University
October 6, 2009

To Whom It May Concern:

As the Head Athletic Trainer of Rockhurst University, I was very privileged to have Joe Rhea come and speak to our student athletes. Joe is a very intriguing, motivational speaker with a powerful message. What makes his message so powerful is the life experiences that Joe has endured. Joe has made some amazing things happen in his life due to his unbelievable drive and determination. Thankfully Joe has chosen to share his story and influence some major decisions within the lives of many young adults. I feel as though I can speak for my athletes as well when I say that Joe's message was eye opening, yet very inspirational. I truly care for my athletes and I am concerned about the decisions they make. It was very moving to see that care and concern also being displayed in Joe's message.

Joe has experienced a significant amount of physical and emotional pain in his life, and I want to thank him for having the courage to share it with so many individuals.

Jamie Foster

From: Jim Zegers
Assistant AD for Sports Medicine
Molloy College
September 17, 2009

My name is Jim Zegers, Assistant AD for Sports Medicine at Molloy College, a Division II institution in Rockville Centre, New York. I am writing to help promote a speaker we had on campus last night. His name is Joe Rhea and his presentation, "Bars, Cars, and Catastrophies," was exceptional.

He addressed the subject of making better decisions when it comes to drinking, driving, and overall reckless or careless behavior regarding the two. He also made it clear what a significant brain or spinal cord injury means to people and their families, whether they are the result of an accident or not. His message was one of personal experience due to a catastrophic spinal cord injury he sustained while playing football in high school.

Joe's presentation was perfect for our student athletes and would apply to any similar group anywhere. His use of personal experience and stories of friends who have had similar injuries left an impression on our student-athletes and our entire department. I recommend him to anyone looking for a similar experience.


From: Tom Cranshaw
Chief Executive Officer
Tri-County Mental Health Service
September, 2009

Last Monday evening August 31st, 2009 at the Tri-County Mental Health Services annual meeting, you proved for the second year in a row that you are "You are NOT your average Joe"! We brought you back for a second time because you have a very compelling story to tell and you couldn't do it justice in the 20 minutes that you were allotted last year. You tell your story humbly and with conviction! And your presentation style is impeccable! As I remarked to my wife on the way home, "Joe spoke from his heart, with no notes and no stammers and had our audience of over 300 stakeholders, professionals and consumers spellbound! I'm delighted he was a available for a return visit and so were all 300 attendees"! Joe, my only regret is that we can't bring you back a third time. But your future audiences will be rewarded and enlightened with your personal success story. And you didn't even tell them that you've gone from paralysis to becoming a single digit handicap golfer! Keep up the good work.

Tom Cranshaw, CEO
Tri-County Mental Health Service

From: Tom Cranshaw
Chief Executive Officer
Tri-County Mental Health Service
August 20th, 2008


Now that I'm off my Blackberry and can write at a pc, many thanks for your nice note! And thanks for your OUTSTANDING presentation. I heard today that last night may well have been the best annual mtg that Tri-County has had in its 25 year life! We both deserve atta boys!

Tom Cranshaw, CEO
Tri-County Mental Health Service

From: Scott Sharp
Director of Minor League Operations
Kansas City Royals
April 12, 2009

Dear Joe,

I wanted to take this opportunity to reach out to you to let you know what an impact you made speaking to the Kansas City Royals minor league spring training camp. Your story of perseverance in the face of insurmountable odds puts into perspective how fortunate our young minor league players are to live out their dream of being a professional athlete; a dream you shared as a child as well.

Your message of never taking life for granted and that every choice you make could, and often does, have a profound impact on your life resonated with our players. Our camp was a buzz with your think first mentality from that point forward. We appreciate all that you do and hope you can continue sharing your story and message personal responsibility with the Royals for spring training to come.

You are truly inspirational.


Scott Sharp
Director of Minor League Operations
Kansas City Royals

From: Lenore J. Walsh
Associate Director of Athletics
Senior Woman Administrator, NYIT
April 6, 2009

Greetings Life Skillers! Last night we brought Joe Rhea to New York Institute of Technology to speak about his presentation Bars, Cars and Catastrophes. I have never heard my gymnasium so silent before. I highly recommend Joe Rhea for your next alcohol awareness seminar. His presentation is like no other I have heard. My students were expecting to hear another lecturer telling them not to drink. Joe's presentation is more about making appropriate decisions and the consequences of drinking and driving.

I had heard Joe speak at a CHAMPS/Life Skills conference a few years ago. When the student athletes knew that I had heard him speak they knew that my recommendation must be legit!

My student athletes left with a new perspective – some told me they made sure they had their seatbelt on when they left that night. Others told me they made sure their cell phone was in their back seat of their car so that they would not text message during the ride home.

Joe's message is strong and his videos send a clear message — very well worth it!

More info on Joe Rhea presentation can be found at his website:

Thank you!

Lenore J. Walsh

From: Chris Hayes
Kansas City Royals
March 10, 2009


My name is Chris Hayes and I came up to you this afternoon to thank you for taking the time to come speak to us today. I was inspired by what you said and took not only your message about good decisions (specifically buckling up), but also the reminder to be incredibly grateful for the opportunities and blessings we often take for granted.

One of my best friends in High School didn't have nearly the traumatic injury you sustained, but he did have a malignant tumor on his C4 and C5's so when they did surgery to remove it, he had to wear a halo for almost a year. To this day, he has no mobility in his neck and suffers some of the same issues it seems you deal with on a daily basis. I know how hard it was for him, and can only imagine what it is like on a kid. I know you mentioned a number of times you in many ways live vicariously through us, but I wanted to share a few thoughts I had.

I have two main goals with my baseball career. The first is to win a World Championship with the Royals. Secondly, I want to be able to reach out to people and help them in any way I can with the additional exposure and notoriety being a baseball player brings. The story you told of Frank White made me yearn for a day when I can brighten a kids life if only a fraction as much as Frank was able to with you. Neither of my goals have been reached yet, so today, when you were delivering your message, I had to experience my second goal vicariously through you. I can't imagine the frustration it must be, probably even to this day, to know God blessed you with the ability to play for the Royals and then have it escape in the blink of an eye. But today I hope you take pride in the fact that you have risen above all the adversity and been able to reach out to people and benefit their lives in such large numbers. I admire you equally for your recovery and for your ability to deliver such a message to so many people. As far as my second goal, I'll say it again, today I was living vicariously through you.

When it comes to my first goal of winning a World Championship with the Royals, I know perhaps nothing will be able to replace actually being there on the field, but I hope you will feel like you are as much a part of it as the players on the field. I meant what I said today about our organization going in the right direction. I honestly believe it and plan on being in KC in the near future to help the team win it all. When that amazing October evening comes, I hope I get a chance to come in for a few late inning outs. And when it does, you will be on the field with me in my thoughts. You said something today along the lines of "No matter how tense or stressful the situation in the biggest game, just think of me and know that I would do anything to be in that situation." Again, I know you'd rather be in my shoes than in yours when that time comes, but I hope when it does, you feel like you are right there in the game. Regardless of who's on the mound or at bat in that game, they will have your message in the back of their head whether they know it or not.

I feel incredibly grateful for the opportunities I have been given in my life. What you said today was a great reminder and strengthened my gratitude. I very much look forward to reaching both the goals I have within baseball, I hope you realize you have already achieved my second and I look forward to being able to "share" the first with you in the near future.

Take care and again, thank you.
Chris Hayes

From: Metropolitan Community College-Longview
December 17, 2008


I just want to thank you for coming to MCC-Longview and speaking to our students, staff, and faculty. From the beginning you were a joy to work with – you wanted to know the audience, what the goal of our event was, and your easy-going and kind personality made it fun to arrange.

You have a unique way of connecting with people both individually and in audiences. I witnessed people I know and see on a regular basis approach you and disclose personal information that they have never shared with anyone else; they trusted you immediately. Your presentation made an impact on everyone in the audience, I particularly appreciate how you tell your personal story and connect it to how important our daily choices matter. I think so many audiences can benefit from your presentation and I would highly recommend you.

Jennifer Argo
Access Resource Educator
Metropolitan Community College-Longview

From: Arizona State University
Associate Athletic Director
Student Athlete Development
September 23, 2008

Joe Rhea is truly a dynamic speaker with an inspirational message whom I highly recommend. We invited Joe to speak with our incoming freshman student-athletes this August at our Student-Athlete Orientation and Joe did a phenomenal job. He is extremely engaging, uses impactful media and tells a truly heartfelt personal story.

Joe was very accommodating and actually combined two of his programs for us; "Freshman Now" and "Bars, Cars and Catastrophe". He spoke with our freshman on the importance of making good decisions, especially when it comes to alcohol, and the importance of setting goals in all facets of your life. His presentation and graphic videos truly made our students think about the consequences of the decisions they make every day.

Our students were awed by Joe's personal story, the videos that he showed and the message he shared. We would love to bring Joe back to speak with a larger group of our student athletes so that they all have the privilege of hearing his message.

Mr. Jean Boyd
Associate Athletic Director

From: Mesa Community College
Department of Athletics
September 15, 2008

Dear Joe,

I would like to thank you for speaking at our student-athlete orientation on August 22, 2008. It's not often that one becomes inspired by listening to another's story like the one you told to our 350 student-athletes. From everyone at Mesa Community College we feel very fortunate for being able to hear one of the most incredible and inspirational messages on "Think First, Think Big."

Your unique ability to speak from the heart and with such honesty, and your ability to hold the audience spellbound was amazing. There was absolute silence as the student-athletes listened intently during your entire presentation. I also want to commend you on your use of videos that were both informative and impactful. I know from the comments of everyone at the presentation that our students will remember this presentation and make good decisions in their personal life as college students at Mesa.

On behalf of our student-athletes, and all those involved in this wonderful day. Thank you for sharing your life altering experience and allowing others to learn from your tragedy. Every college and student-athlete in America should have the opportunity and privilege of hearing your message. Keep up the great work as your message is without a doubt changing lives.

Jeff Fore
Director of Athletics

Joe Rhea speaks to students

From: Wingate University Counseling & Wellness Services
Jessica N. Hylton, MA, LPC, NCC
November 27, 2007

The Bars, Cars & Catastrophes presentation was extremely effective as a whole with the videos being especially dynamic and thought provoking. The presentation style brought the issue of drunk driving and its consequences to life in a graphic fashion that carried great weight and impact with the students. Educating students on the importance of considering the consequences of their actions before they make decisions was the paramount message taken away by those in attendance. Joe Rhea's knowledge and tenacious belief in the importance of this issue was more than evident to all.

From: Eastern Illinois University
Cindy Tozer, Director, Academic Services/Life Skills Coordinator
October 4, 2007

Joe visited our campus a few weeks ago as well. Our students were so inspired by his story. There were many students that stayed afterwards to talk to him privately. He made a huge impact on our athletes. I highly recommend him as well and hope to bring him back to Eastern Illinois University within two years.

From: Troy University, Alabama
Matthew Mayotte, Director of Student-Athlete Services
October 4, 2007

Joe Rhea visited Troy University last evening. His "Cars, Bars, and Catastrophes" presentation was powerful and important. Some of the visuals he used were graphic but his message was not lost on our student-athletes. The bigger picture of consequences of poor decision-making was right on. I would recommend Joe to all of you.

From: Barbara Patterson, Troy University
October 3, 2007

Joe, I want to apologize for taking so long to let you know how much we appreciate you speaking at Troy. Everyone was very pleased — the Athletic Department was really pleased. I apologize for the check situation, but Derrick did send it by UPS and so I am hoping that you got it a long time ago.

I wanted you to see the e-mail that I received the next morning concerning your program. As you can see you really have a life that you touched that evening. I am going to give her your e-mail address and hopefully she will be in touch with you, I don't think she would mind an e-mail from you. Life goes so fast that I did not even think about Christyl's accident when we planned for you to be here. She and her date were coming back from a date party and were hit from behind by a drunk driver. Her face was unrecognizable the first week or so in the hospital.

I hope speaking goes well for you for the rest of the semester. Never hesitate to use us as a reference.

Many thanks.

From: Christyl Lawrence, Troy University
October 3, 2007

Mrs. Patterson,

I just wanted to thank you for having Joe Rhea to talk last night. As I am sure you remember, I was in a car accident last year in which I was hit by a drunk driver. I do still think about it in some way every single day. It has been a little over a year now and things are started to improve. I still have several complications, but I WILL NOT let someone elses mistake ruin the rest of my life. I know that what I went through was horrible, but there has been much worse. I am so incredibly fortunate to be where I am today and not have all the problems that could have happened. I find myself asking everyday why was I spared and what do I need to do with my life. I know speaking is not the way to go because I am terrified to speak in public, but I am confident that I will find some way to change a few lives.

I was wondering if you could give me his email address or contact information. I would love to talk to him about what happened to me, so that maybe he could share my story. I was way too shook up and crying to have been able to get anything out last night. Again thank you so much for allowing him to come. I hope that you and he have made even a few people understand the consequences of their actions. I know that I was supposed to be in there listening for some reason. I just pray that I figure it out in enough time to do something to help.

Thanks so much!

From: University of Colorado Athletics
Ryan Kataoka, Academic Coordinator
October 4, 2007

Joe Rhea recently spoke to our student-athletes at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Joe's message entitled, "Cars, Bars and Catastrophes," helped to remind all of us of the responsibility we each have for our actions. The topic of alcohol, drunk driving, and other driving related safety precautions are all covered throughout his presentation. Some of the graphic images and personal accounts shared throughout his talk helped to make the message alarming, real, and most importantly, memorable.

Joe's own tragic story is woven throughout the presentation which helped our students to see firsthand the effects a spinal and similar injuries can have on a person. Joe is a passionate person who shares a message that today's students can relate to. You can learn more about him on his website:

From: Safe Kids Metro Kansas City
Deb Bangardner, Coordinator
August 3, 2007

Dear Joe,

On behalf of the Safe Kids Metro KC Members who got to hear you, and in pity for those who missed it, I want to thank you for your excellent talk last week.

Your personal experience and compelling way of presenting it — plus the message you bring are powerful.

Thanks again. You were terrific!

From: University of Nebraska
Keith Zimmer, Asst. Athletic Director for Student Life
January 26, 2007


Thank you for speaking both to the student-athletes and the student affairs group. You have a great message which was well received by our student-athletes. I have heard countless student-athletes talk about weraing their seat belts AND understanding that the fact that there are consequences for every decision they make. I appreciate you including the comments we discussed and keeping your program to the one hour time frame we discussed. Everything was great and hopefully there will be a chance to get you back to Lincoln in the coming years.

From: University of Nebraska
KoKo Tacha, Student-Athlete Advisory Committee President
January 28, 2007

Joe —

Thank you so much for coming to talk to the student-athletes here at Nebraska. I think it was great for all of us to get to hear about the struggle that you experienced and the challenges you overcame to get where you are today. I have been hearing a lot of people say that they are now buckling up every time they get in their car. Sometimes as student-athletes we feel invincible, and you gave us a good reminder that we are not, and that the number one way to protect ourselves when getting behind the wheel or stepping foot in a car is simply to buckle up. We appreciate your time and willingness to come educate us. I know that your video and story affected a lot of us and I am grateful that maybe it will come to protect or save one of our friends, or ourself, in the future. Thank you!

From: University of Kansas
Bill Self, Head Coach - Men's Basketball
October 2006

Dear Joe,

I want to take this opportunity to thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to speak with our team and share your phenomenal life story. I was truly touched when hearing about your story and the desire and determination that you have displayed in making a fantastic recovery. Our staff and team were touched by your story and by your inspirational message.

Your story is a shinning example that serves as a reminder to all of us to welcome every day with the belief and desire to make a difference, and to focus our efforts on being the best that we can be.

From: Penn Valley Community College
Bernard Franklin, Phd., President
May 2006


You are moving alone and it is so rewarding to me to see you blooming into the man you were put on the earth for. You are a gift to the world. As I write this, I am thinking about a quote that I absolutely love. This is it. I keep this close to me to remind me of my purpose and mission in life. I hope it inspires you.

Our Deepest Fear by Marianne Williamson from A Return To Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

Go, my friend, liberate the world.

From: Weber State University Athletic Dept.
Steve Correa, Assistant Coordinator of Academic and Support Services
April 2006


The seminar was great. It was a powerful message that opened the eyes of our students, athletes, and faculty/staff. I highly recommend the program to any department or college. The days following the program people were still thanking all who were involved with bringing you to Weber State because they enjoyed your inspirational story and took the advise of "Think First" to heart knowing that our actions can have a big effect on others. Your goal setting, achievements, and dedication are great models for all. We thank you again for coming to speak on our campus and would love to bring you back in the future.

From: Utah State University - Student Athlete Services
Amy Crosbie - Academic Advisor / Life Skills Coordinator
March 15th, 2006

Joe, Utah State was extremely happy to have you on our campus to speak to the Greeks and to our student athlete population. You were so great to work with and it was nice to finally meet you face to face. You are an inspiring individual and a talented speaker.It does not matter who I am bringing in for programming, I always have a bit of anxiety before an event because I have required our student athletes to attend. My anxiety stems from the question are they going to enjoy it, are they going to leave this night thinking more deeply about what they have heard?The initial scene was familiar, tired athletes dragging their feet and sitting in the back of the auditorium. But all it took was you beginning to speak to them and I emphasize the words speak to them not at them but to them. Your presentation is a heavy one but rightfully so. The decisions you are asking them to be conscious of are a matter of life and death. No one wants to see the realities of car crashes that could have been prevented if someone would have just THOUGHT FIRST! College students, and definitely college student athletes are not invincible and that was proven in the video that you showed.I received a lot of verbal and written feedback. It is amazing to see what different people gained from your presentation. Your presentation was a perfect fit for us and I want to thank you for pursuing this line of work because there is not a person I know that would not benefit from you presentation!Below are emails that were sent to me the day after you visited Utah State in response to your presentation.

"I came to talk to you today about last night. Wow, It was great! I really enjoyed it and the students I have talked to did as well. I have caught myself 3 times today forgetting to put my seat belt on right away, that will change for sure."
— Head Volleyball Coach

"I thought that the presentation was good. It made me think about how quickly things can change in your life and to make good decisions. It also made me feel sad for the people who have lost family members and friends because of bad choices of other people."
— Football player

"I thought that last night was really good, it definitely hit home for me. It wasn't really the crashes and stuff like that that hit home it was just the fact that a brain or a spinal cord injury could change your life in an instant. I thought that he was very entertaining and had some good insights for us. I enjoyed the presentation."
— Womens soccer player

"I thought that last nights presentation was powerful, Im not sure if I was motivated or just scared to death...but it definitely triggered something. I am one of those people who thinks I am invincible and don't wear my seatbelt, there was nothing my mom could do or say I just didn't ever get into the habit. After last night I will with out fail wear my seat belt every time I get into the car."
— Womens Tennis player

"I loved hearing Joe. I believe he has saved lives by giving this message and showing that movie. Some of the girls on my team and I were talking after and we were saying that all high school kids taking drivers ed should have to watch that film and all those who are renewing their licenses. We think that many lives could be saved if more people see that. It was so moving. I loved what he had to share, his message was amazing. Life is so fragile and he just brought that reality to the surface. I'm thankful that I had the chance to hear him speak. It definitely changed my views on life and other things I do. I think it was a very good thing to have the athletes go to. It was awesome!"
— Womens Soccer player

"I really liked Joe Rhea's message. It was pretty graphic and some may say "hard to swallow" with the graphic pictures, but I think for most of the student-athletes that really do need to hear this message- that is what it takes- the raw reality of it. He was a very good speaker and in most presentations like this I feel like the speaker is preaching to me and I don't connect with them because I don't feel like they are like me. I enjoyed the presentation, but didn't feel it was something I needed to hear as I am past that phase of my life, but the message of wearing your seatbelt is for everyone and anyone. I enjoyed that he seemed young which made him more credible to me as I could relate to him. After the meeting I went up and thanked him for coming out to little Logan, Utah to speak to us. I liked it."
— Womens volleyball player

"I really enjoyed his speech. I've worn my seat belt every time I have gotten into a car since then."
— Womens softball player

"I thought it was a great lecture. It was well rounded and had special applications to athletes. There are times when I sit and think about what I would do if I couldn't be a normal member of society, it is so unfathomable. It definitely makes me think every time I get into a car about the consequences of every action when I drive."
— Womens softball player

"I thought Joe was a great speaker. He told it how it is and made me think about the choices I make everyday. I have to admit that the program was very different from what I thought it was going to be. The program did leave me feeling a little depressed; yet humbled. Thank you for bringing him in to speak to us."
— Gymnast

From: Kansas State University
Walter Goffigan, Program Director for Diversity and Life Skills
September 2006

On September 15th, Joe Rhea came and spoke to our students-athletes, coaches, and support staff. Joe relayed his message, "Think First then Think BIG!" to the audience. Joe inspired the audience by his personal trials and accomplishments in his life, along with stories from others he had come in contact with over the years. In his message, Joe spoke about being the best you can be for that day because you never know what tomorrow will bring; to focus on goals for that day because what you do that day can change your life. Joe also spoke about treating others with respect and to have the courage to make mistakes, because from those mistakes you will learn to overcome obstacles in your life. It gives me great honor to write this letter of recommendation for Joe Rhea for his heart-felt inspiring message to the audience.

From: Avila University
Carol Frevert, Director of Health and Child Services
August 31, 2005

Avila University was pleased to have Joe Rhea speak during our athletic orientation this fall. As Director of Health and Child Services, it is my responsibility to arrange the substance abuse educational programs each year. I was fortunate to hear of Joe's speaking programs through the Research Foundation's Think First program.

Joe spoke to our fall sports programs on the 14th of August and to our winter and spring sports programs on 23rd of August. His "Think First" presentation focused on accidents associated with driving and the impact that alcohol has on poor decision-making involving seat belt use and driving after drinking. He was able to share with the audience the impact that this has through stories he told about people he knows whose lives have been changed because they did not "Think First."

Joe has an ability to speak from the heart and with such honesty that he held the audience spellbound. There was absolute silence as the students listened intently during his presentation and as he shared a video, "Its My Life". I am hopeful our students will remember his presentation and make good decisions in their personal life as college students at Avila.

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