Frank Bice was a senior in college and captain of the football team when a bungled tackle fractured his spine and left him a quadriplegic.
But instead of wallowing in self-pity over the injury he sustained three decades ago, the Manhasset native has used his misfortune to try to inspire others to remain hopeful.
The former Roman Catholic seminarian gives talks at churches, visits schools and now has launched an increasingly popular daily 2-minute message on YouTube in which he tells stories - often sports-related - and relates them to the day's Bible reading. His new, self-published book is called "Your Cross Is Your Gift."
"I'm really incredibly lucky," said Bice, 51. "I really had a pretty good attitude" after the accident. "I really didn't want to waste time hoping that this didn't happen or wishing that this didn't happen. My feeling was, let's try to stay positive, and make the most of it."
The YouTube commentaries, called "Daily Hope," touch on everything from Mike Tyson and his trainer Cus D'Amato, to Miami Heat star LeBron James, to the Peace Corps' first director, Sargent Shriver, to Bice's days at Yale Divinity School.
The videos are attracting hundreds of viewers, including a Middlebury College lacrosse star who says they help his game. "He's someone I really look up to," said John Duvnjak, a former All-American at Manhasset High School. "He's always been an inspirational person."
At St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church in Manhasset, where Bice is a deacon, the Rev. Vincent Richie said Bice "is a wonderful preacher." The YouTube commentaries are "wonderful little pieces."
In one recent segment about James, Bice said, "This man has an amazing gift. It's as if he was born to be a basketball star. In the gospel today, Jesus says don't let anything stop you from letting your light shine before everyone. That way you can glorify your heavenly father."
But James could have failed to let his light shine, Bice said. He had a tough childhood. "But he didn't let that stop him from recognizing and living out his gift."
In another commentary, Bice recalled living in a residence hall with 180 theology doctoral students. "When I got there, my only friend was my dog, Jug. Basically, I had no one to talk to. I was totally intimidated. I was absolutely miserable."
His salvation came, he said, when he started attending Mass at a nearby church. "If you've been away from church, I'm begging you, come on back and I promise you it will set you free."
Bice says that his commentaries are aimed partly at Catholics who no longer attend Mass, and even at non-Catholics. "This is a vehicle," he said. "It's kind of bringing the church to the people, rather than the people to the church."
He said he got the idea for "Daily Hope" from his wife, Liz, whom he first met - and fell in love with - in fourth grade at St. Mary's Elementary School in Manhasset. After years of an on-again, off-again relationship, they eventually married a year after he left the Immaculate Conception Seminary in Lloyd Neck.
Bice says his message of hope seems to be resonating. "Miracles today are right in front of our faces, but we don't see them."