Student overcomes brain injury to graduate

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – A young Albuquerque man who become an inspiration to people across the world, after his bikini-clad cousin ran across the Pro Bowl field with his name on her back, has graduated from high school.

It included everything you see in a typical high school graduation from the pictures, to the pomp and circumstance to the diploma. But the graduate, Gary Esquibel, who received his diploma Wednesday had to overcome more than just final exams to graduate.

In April 2012 Gary was riding his motorcycle in northwest Albuquerque when he crashed with another car. Although, Gary was wearing a helmet he suffered a brain injury that left him unable to walk and talk. At times, doctor’s did not think he would survive. But he did in a very big way.

The world heard Gary’s story after his cousin, Albuquerque native Katrina Torres, ran across the football field during the 2014 Pro Bowl. She had five words written on her back: I DID IT 4 GARY.

The video became an internet sensation and Gary became an inspiration to many. But, his story wasn’t finished.

Gary’s accident happened a month before he was set to graduate high school. After spending a year in the hospital and undergoing dozens of surgeries Gary’s mother Melissa Esquibel said he started special education home-school.

“He was doing all of 11th and 12th grade work,” Esquibel said.

Wednesday, Gary was dressed like any other graduate in his cap and gown, brown and gold colors representing Cibola High School.

Torres and his mother were guest speakers.

“Gary you are truly my hero,” Torres said.

“I never had a doubt in my mind that he would achieve this and this day would arrive,” Esquibel said. “Gary you made me promise, before this accident, that you would graduate and you kept it.”

Gary became part of the graduating class of 2014.

“I guess now, we’ll sit down and talk about what he wants to do next, see what new goals were going to set so we can achieve them,” Esquibel said.

Gary is not able to verbally communicate. So, his mother said he used other methods and technology to complete his school work like multiple choice questions and by working on an iPad. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Users who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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