HAMDEN, Conn. (WTNH) – His message is captivating, and audiences hang onto his every word. Will Kirkaldy is a former college basketball player turned motivational speaker.

Words of wisdom were born out of a dark period in his youth.

“It was a traumatic part of my life. I was being bullied constantly,” Kirkaldy said.

Kirkaldy reacted by not going to school, which resulted in him repeating the 4th grade. A chance encounter with a school janitor helped put his life back on track.

“He said, ‘at some point in time, you have to face your fear.’ I looked at him and said, ‘well, today won’t be that day.’ And he said, ‘the only other option you have is to go downstairs and try out for the basketball team,’” Kirkaldy said.

Kirkaldy eventually suited up, but his venture onto the hardwood turned out to be not a great first start.

“Horrible. Oh no. It was the worst! I would like to say it was the worst outing of my career,” Kirkaldy said.

But he quickly rebounded. During his senior year, Kirkaldy was recruited to play at a basketball camp at Syracuse University. However, the rising star’s hoop dreams soon came crashing down.

A student, who he admits to having an intimate relationship with, accused him of rape.

“The headline in the morning paper read, ‘From Prospect to Suspect; Will Kirkaldy rapes woman in Syracuse hotel,’” Kirkaldy said.

That headline nearly destroyed his chances of playing ball, but a tape recording of Kirkaldy’s accuser talking with a friend revealed she was not telling the truth.

A private investigator obtained the recording.

“They spoke about it in detail what they were going to do to an athlete like myself,” Kirkaldy said. “I’m so thankful for them to record it because, with that, I would have been facing 26 years in prison.”

Kirkaldy returned to college ball only to hit another wall. Following a game, a car he was riding in slammed into a mountain at 85 miles per hour. Doctors described the impact as having three heart attacks at once.

After waking from a common, doctors had disturbing news for Kirkaldy.

“They said that they had done two surgeries and that my lower left leg needed to be amputated,” Kirkaldy said.  

A reality that caught students by surprise. Today, Kirkaldy credits his mother and his faith for helping him through the tough times.

“When someone knocks you down in life, always get back up. No matter how much a person accusing you of doing something, you have to learn from those mistakes and go through it anyway,” Kirkaldy said.

It’s also a message that brings hope and promise to future generations.