November 3, 2009

Etheridge on road to recovery

Just three days ago Zac Etheridge was lying motionless on the field. For seconds, maybe a minute, without any feeling in his arms or legs.

But Tuesday, in a full neck brace, Etheridge was back in Auburn spending time with his teammates and coaches and sitting down with the media.

"I told my mom that I got messages from a lot of people, a lot of fans. I want the world to know that I'm fine," Etheridge said. "I want to thank everybody for their prayer requests. That helped my family out. They're going through this situation -- especially knowing how much I love this game.

"I can't stay away from the guys long. If I could, I'd dress out today. I'm just happy to walk again."

Etheridge collided with a teammate in the Ole Miss game Saturday fracturing his fifth vertebra and tearing ligaments in his neck. Both Etheridge and Antonio Coleman were trying to tackle Rebel tailback Rodney Scott.

When Scott went down, Etheridge and Coleman collided nearly head on.

"When it first happened, I was just laying there. I was in shock just not being able to move, there was a lot going through my mind. The only thing I could say was, 'Jesus. Jesus,'" Etheridge said.

Etheridge was lying motionless on top of Scott, who had the sense to stay still and not cause Etheridge any further injury. Etheridge spoke to Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt earlier Tuesday and plans to speak with Scott that afternoon.

"It's a blessing that he didn't move," Etheridge said. "…If he would have moved, I wouldn't be here today. I'd still be laying on the hospital bed. It's just a blessing that I'm even able to walk again today."

As he was leaving the field on a stretcher, Etheridge gave his teammates and Auburn fans a thumbs-up.

"When I was on the ground, I was moving my toes a little bit," Etheridge said. "I didn't have much feeling, but when I got on the stretcher, they were just like, 'Move your hands and just let everyone know you're fine.'

"That's when I was able to put a thumbs-up and that's when I knew that all the prayers that went up -- God answered those that time."

After undergoing numerous tests at the hospital, the first question Etheridge had for his doctors was if he'd be able to play again.

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