Injured Southern WR Devon Gales taking the grueling recovery process day by day
Southern wide receiver Devon Gales pulled on the heartstrings of college football fans across the South in September after a devastating neck injury at Georgia left him immobile and strapped to a wheelchair, creating a near instant bond between Southern and the University of Georgia.
Several surgeries later, Gales is making the most of his current situation.
Gales was seriously injured on a kickoff return during the Jaguars’ game with Georgia on Sept. 26. He suffered several neck fractures, which were stabilized during surgery the next day at Athens Regional Medical Center.
A few days later, he was moved to the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, one of the nation’s top rehabilitation facilities for spinal injuries, where he has been ever since. He undergoes physical therapy each day.
“Every day is tough, but I think the toughest thing is waking up. Getting my day started. Every day, relearning things and learning new things in rehab,” Gales said during an interview with UGA Football Live.
The University of Georgia, the football team and its fans have shown a lot of support for Gales since his injury.
“Everyone has been amazing,” he said. “Coach (Mark) Richt, assistant athletic director Carla Williams, Ron Courson (Georgia’s director of sports medicine), Chappy (Georgia team chaplain Kevin “Chappy” Hynes) and Coach (Bryant) Gantt visit every week. They’re all great. But Coach Gantt is the best. He pushes me and makes me work hard all the time. He’s great at motivating me. Coach Gantt also helped plan my surprise birthday party here at the Shepherd Center. He has been a big support to my family, especially Dad. I worry about my parents through all this so I appreciate that.”
“(The Bulldog Nation) has made the recovery process a seamless transition for Devon,” added Kimberly August, Gales’ godmother and an Atlanta-based attorney. “Ron Courson visits every week. (Program director) Bryant Gantt and Coach Richt visit. I understand why young men recruited by UGA would play there. These coaches are genuinely concerned with the well-being of the athlete. Coach Gantt is a big man with a big personality, but an even bigger heart.”
People from Southern, Gales’ own school, have also reached out to him.
“The SU alumni have been there every step of the way,” Gales said. “There are so many people who have given their time and gifts to me and my family. I can’t imagine what this would be like if they had not embraced and treated us like family. The head trainer at Southern, Lovie, has been wonderful. She came to visit yesterday. She’s awesome. My family back home in Baton Rouge have come to visit and our family friends have taken care of things in Louisiana. My grandmothers have really held it down caring for my 11-year-old brother and seven-year-old sister back home. Now that’s work. I miss my teammates. They are my rock. I miss campus life, too. Southern’s campus on the Mississippi is beautiful. Peaceful. It’s home. But I’ve learned to love Georgia, UGA especially.”
“The Southern alumni have been huge.” August added. “They’ve helped welcome him at Shepherd, and we even grouped together to throw him a surprise birthday party.”
She added that Gales has been able to bring the people around him together.
“In the scope of everything that has transpired, (Devon) has been the catalyst in changing how we as an alumni group fellowship,” August said. “We love our school, and while it’s nice to go to a football game, it’s always more meaningful to get together like this. He’s galvanized people around more than just football, more than just seeing old friends from college. It’s revitalized the alumni association in Atlanta.”
“It certainly is a terrible tragedy, but it’s done so much to bring focus to issues of safety in football,” she added. “And people, regardless of race or religion, are praying together for him. He’s galvanizing people and making us realize we are more alike than we are different. I think that’s what his legacy will be.”
What words of advice would Gales have for others going through a difficult situation?
“My advice is to never give up,” he said. “Faith is important and God makes no mistakes. Last weekend, my godmother Kim spent the night and she told me that fear knocked at the door, and faith opened it to find no one there. I have faith, so I’m fearless. My advice is to live life faithfully and fearlessly.”