Injured Southern player ‘has never asked, ‘Why me?’’

The Southern University football player who sustained a spinal fracture in Saturday’s game against Georgia is able to move his shoulders and wrists but not his lower body at this point, according to his physician.

Devon Gales faces a “long, rigorous” recovery, but is in great spirits, a family friend said Thursday.

“He has never asked, ‘Why me?’” said Kimberly August, speaking on behalf of Gales’ family at a news conference at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta.

“People are calling to check on him, and they’re upset about his injury, and he’s consoling them. That’s the kind of young man he is. … He is prepared for the task.”

Gales was transferred from an Athens hospital to the Shepherd Center, which specializes in treatment of spinal-cord injuries, Wednesday.

His attending physician at Shepherd, Brock Bowman, stressed at the news conference that it’s too early for a prognosis, saying: “It’s going to be some time before we really can give a more accurate prediction of where this may be.”

Gales has movement in his shoulders, upper arms and wrists and is stronger on his right side than on his left, Bowman said. His breathing is good, the physician added.

“We’re hopeful over time with the right therapy, with the right surgery that was done and with the right healing, we’re going to start seeing other things wake up,” Bowman said. “But at this point, we’re focusing on him breaking the rules and hopefully improving a lot more over the next couple of weeks.”

At this point, Gales “doesn’t have a lot of individual finger movement” and “is not moving his legs much,” Bowman said. “He senses that he is doing something (with his legs), but we’re not able to measure it at this point. We’re still in the process of assessing that.”

Gales is expected to remain at Shepherd for about eight weeks. His physical therapy will continue beyond that, probably for at least a year, Bowman said.

Gales underwent a four-hour surgery at Athens Regional Medical Center on Sunday.

“The goal of the surgery is first of all to get the pressure off the spinal cord so that we can create a good environment for the spinal cord to heal over time,” said Athens neurosurgeon Kimberly Walpert, who performed the surgery. “The second goal of the surgery is to make sure that area is stable so that when Devon starts to sit up and participate in active therapy that his neck is stable and we don’t have to worry about it re-injuring his spinal cord.”

At the news conference, Gales’ family friend thanked UGA coaches, officials and fans for their support.

“Devon’s recovery will be a long, rigorous process, and he is prepared to put in the work required to make a full recovery,” said August, an Atlanta resident.

“We are asking that you continue to pray for him and our family. Just as important, Devon and his family want you to pray for UGA’s Marshall Morgan and his family, because the accident has affected both young men and will change their lives forever.”

The injury occurred on a kickoff, when Gales was blocking and he and Morgan collided.

Gales’ father, mother and stepmother are with him at the Shepherd Center.

“Devon is a fighter,” said Roman Gage, who is Gales’ godfather. “He’s already asked for a medical redshirt.”