Paralyzed Southern University football player thanks UGA, Athens community

FOX5 originally published this video on February 25, 2016.

– Southern University wide receiver Devon Gales, who was critically injured during a game against the University of Georgia last football season, returned to Athens before he travels home to Baton Rouge.

“I feel so blessed,” Gales said at a news conference on UGA’s campus Thursday morning. “I want to thank UGA for everything. Without UGA, I probably wouldn’t be here.”

The 22-year-old was hit during a kickoff return in a game last September in Athens. He never got up, suffering a paralyzing neck injury. Following emergency surgery in Athens, he was transferred to the Shepherd Center in Atlanta.

Gales arrived in Athens following his graduation ceremony Wednesday from the Shepherd Center, which is where he’s been recovering for nearly five months. He’s spending the day saying goodbye to the community and many supporters who have been there for him throughout his recovery.

The morning news briefing was moderated by former UGA football player and ESPN host David Pollack. A number of guests attended, including Athens Mayor Nancy Denson who presented Gales with an “Honorary Citizen Clarke County” Award.

Following the news conference, Gales is visiting with UGA Athletic Association employees as well as student athletes. He’ll then head to Athens Regional Hospital where his injury was first treated.

Gales will then make his way home to Louisiana, but plans to return to Atlanta in March or April to resume his outpatient therapy. Until then, he’s looking forward to spending time with his younger brother, sister and his Southern University teammates.