Arquevious “Que” Crane was on a hot streak.
“The ball was constantly going toward me,” the former South Gwinnett High School wide receiver said.
It was possibly going to be a career game for the troubled teenager, whose primary outlet was football. He might have been on fire, but the Comets were down in the fourth quarter and Crane wanted to score. That’s why Crane didn’t fall down easily when he caught a pass near the sideline about 15 feet from his coach, David Anderson. That and a mix of bad luck were why the game on Sept. 20, 2007, was Crane’s last. The game never actually finished.
After catching a ball and stretching for a first down, Crane was hit and knocked out. He described a tingling sensation all over his body as he went in and out of consciousness. Crane had been paralyzed on the play, and his football career was over.
That tragic night changed Crane’s life — a story he shares during his many speaking engagements. With the speeches, it seems Crane has found his calling. On Thursday, he spoke to several groups of Dacula Middle School language arts classes in the media center about adversity and resiliency.
His message goes hand-in-hand with the themes of materials that Dacula eighth-graders are learning in class.
“One of the things that’s missing is how to overcome those hurdles and setbacks they’re facing because it doesn’t matter how old you are, things are going to happen,” Crane said after his first session.
Crane told students about his life as a young child when he was living with the domestic abuse of his mother before she finally left the house and relationship with him. Then he recounted living in a dangerous neighborhood where he remembers shootings and sleeping on the floor to avoid stray bullets from drive-by shootings. He spoke in detail about leaving his mom to live with his religious grandmother before learning one day his mom had gone missing. He never saw her again.
He told the class of eighth-graders that he started to stray from a productive path as a teenager. He described himself as a straight “C” student who might have struggled to graduate on-time before his accident, let alone after being hospitalized for months. It was while he was lying in a hospital bed he told Anderson he was going to graduate on time.
Crane, who could barely hold a pencil when he said that, grabbed his diploma that spring.
“Before the incident, they were just my coaches,” Crane said. “It wasn’t as close as it had gotten as soon as I got injured. That’s when they came, surrounded me and made sure I was uplifted.”
Crane said Anderson was an important conduit to him becoming a public speaker. Crane was finishing his final year of studies at Georgia Gwinnett College and thinking about law school. Then he had a talk with his former coach, who had become one of his life’s mentors. Anderson told Crane five years ago that his story could be more than a tear-jerker.
“As soon as I stepped on stage it was just that feeling, ‘Yo, coach. This is a touchdown,’” Crane said.
Five years later, Crane was the first person in his family to graduate college. He authored his own book, “Wish in a Jar.” He’s held public speaking engagements at schools all over metro Atlanta, including several in Gwinnett County. He’s helped produce a documentary that’s won two Emmy awards.
He’s even gone skydiving since his accident. As Crane puts it, he “learned to fly,” after he lost the ability to walk.
The breakout session on Thursday is a social and emotional learning piece that helps students develop empathy, but it’s also part of the county’s AKS.
“To me, when you’re studying something or reading about it, it’s one thing,” Dacula Middle principal Kimberly Bussey said. “The story itself can engage the kids, but it takes it to another level when you can have a guest speaker or someone who has lived that life we’re talking about.”
For Crane, the feedback he receives from students after his engagements is part of what makes his public speaking worthwhile. Students sometimes approach him afterward or message him on social media confessing some of the hardships in their lives and he does his best to try to uplift them.
“It doesn’t matter how old you are, you’re going to get hit with something,” Crane said. “If you don’t know how to handle it, it can put a strain on you. There was a point where I didn’t know how to handle a lot of things, and I feel like, if I had that, things would have been handled a lot differently.”