Emeka Nnaka graced TulsaPeople’s cover 12 years ago, but an “attitude of gratitude” remains his anchor today.
Jim Myers Morgan interviewed Nnaka in 2009, months after he suffered a neck and spinal cord injury during an Oklahoma Thunder football game.
The then-21-year-old spoke of his intensive physical therapy regimen and his strong faith. At the time, Nnaka considered a career in PT.
Today, however, he is a motivational speaker, a therapist with A New Way Center and a youth mentor who is writing his first book. He expects to finish it in spring 2021 with the help of a local ghost writer.
“Basically, the concept is that love takes action,” Nnaka says. “Typically, when we think about going to battle, we put on armor to protect ourselves. When you’re at war for humanity — that kind of war requires you to take off armor and be vulnerable and see things from others’ perspectives, and get your hands dirty and walk in the mud.”
Though COVID-19 canceled many of his 2020 speaking engagements, Nnaka shifted to online content. He has continued volunteering weekly with Youth Services of Tulsa, and has been enjoying his new home, which Tulsa Habitat for Humanity custom built for him in 2019.
“Every day I wake up, and I look around my room, and I am just filled with thankfulness,” Nnaka says. “It has been a really rough year for a lot of people. For me, it’s been rough in some regards, but I’m not drowning. I’m in one of the safest positions I’ve been in in a long time.”