A RUGBY player who was once told he may never walk or talk again is enjoying a twin celebration of graduating from university and signing a contract he hopes will lead to a professional career in sport.

Declan Sephton Hulme, from Sutton, suffered a brain haemorrhage in 2006 – at the age of 13 – which nearly killed him.

He was left in an 11-day coma due to a genetic brain condition which threatened to end his dream of becoming a professional rugby league player.

When asked whether he would play rugby league again, his father was told that if he came out of the coma Declan would be likely to experience paralysis, cerebral palsy and be unable to walk or talk.

Incredibly, these symptoms never appeared and after two months he returned home from hospital.

And he returned to rugby in 2007, gaining a place on the Warrington Wolves Scholarship Programme before going on to play for Widnes Vikings with whom he made a first team debut in the final round of last season against Salford.

Declan, a former Sutton High pupil, started playing rugby at the age of nine at Burtonwood Bulldogs before spending two years at the Bold Miners amateur club.

And he has also had the distinction of being invited to attend the England Academy in 2011.

“I didn’t really look at it as a hindrance and getting back to playing rugby was the first thing on my mind,” said Declan, now aged 21, who has also recently signed a 12-month contract extension with the Vikings.

“I didn’t ever think I would reach the highs I have got to at the moment.”

And this week saw Declan graduate from Edge Hill University with an upper second class BSc (Hons) in Sports & Exercise Science after studying for three years.

“I’ve still got another 12 months on my Widnes contract and I hope to knuckle down and carry on and hopefully then get another contract.

“I’ve got the best job in the world and am hoping I don’t have to use this degree for a while.”