- Associated Press - Thursday, October 1, 2015

ATLANTA (AP) - Southern University football player Devon Gales is in good spirits despite a neck injury, a friend of the family said Thursday.

Though his body movement is limited mostly to wrists, shoulders and biceps, Gales is telling family members and friends that he hopes to make a full recovery.

Family friend Kimberly August said, “People are calling to check on him, upset about his injury and he’s consoling them.”

Spinal cord specialist Brock Bowman, Gales’ attending physician at the Shepherd Center, expects he will be hospitalized at least eight weeks.

Bowman said it’s too early to make a prognosis for recovery. Gales broke his sixth cervical vertebra in Saturday’s game at Georgia.

“He senses that he’s feeling something (in his legs), but we’re not able to measure it at this point,” Bowman said. “Anything that he can start to move, we can strengthen. Even a twitch of this or that we can strengthen. That’s what our team is doing.”

Gales was transferred from the intensive care unit at Shepherd to the hospital floor on Thursday. He likely will need at least a year of physical therapy, depending on how his body responds to treatment.

Neurosurgeon Kimberly Walpert, who oversaw the successful operation Sunday at Athens Regional Medical Center, replaced the broken vertebra and installed hardware as scaffolding to let the neck heal. The procedure lasted over four hours.

“There’s no question that the treatment he received on the field by the sports medicine team was life-altering,” she said. “What he does here at Shepherd will be life-saving.”

Ron Courson, Georgia’s director of sports medicine, was one of the first to reach Gales’ side after the player collided with Georgia kicker Marshall Morgan on a kickoff. Gales was blocking on the play.

Courson stood just a few yards away when Gales went down on the Georgia sideline.

“When I first went to him, he told me couldn’t feel anything,” Courson said. “We activated our emergency plan. He did a great job on the field. He was very calm, talked with us throughout the whole process, which really helps.”

Gales has told those close to him that he will do whatever is necessary to regain control of his body. The redshirt sophomore even told Jaguars athletic director Earl Hill that the school should grant him a medical redshirt this year so he can return to the field next season.

Though Gales faces a difficult rehabilitation process in the next year, August said that the wide receiver wants to use his injury to raise awareness of safety issues in football, particularly on the high school level where emergency plans often are not in place at games or practice.

“Because of the kind of spirit this young man has, he recognizes this is an opportunity for him to have a platform for people to have a discussion about how that can change,” August said. “He loves the game of football. He wants to make sure in such a fashion that other kids are not injured.”

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On the Web:

https://netcommunity.sus.edu/the-devon-gales-fund

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AP college football website: www.collegefootball.ap.org

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Follow George Henry at www.twitter.com/georgehenryAP

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