Southern coach Dawson Odums usually calls into the Southwestern Athletic Conference coaches weekly teleconference from his campus office.
But Monday, Odums checked in from Athens, Georgia, where he had returned to show support for sophomore wide receiver Devon Gales, who underwent successful surgery Sunday to repair fractures in his neck that he suffered in a 48-6 loss at Georgia the day before.
Odums said there was no news on Gales’ condition and no prognosis has been announced as the Gales family has asked for privacy. Gales will remain in Athens General until he’s strong enough to return to Baton Rouge and continue his treatment.
“He’s speaking, and he’s talking, and he understands the road that’s in front of him,” Odums said. “He’s a great guy, and he has the will and determination to handle whatever problems he has.”
In addition to Gales’ parents, who were brought to Athens by Georgia officials Saturday night, Gales’ support group includes wide receivers coach Chris Coleman and the Jaguars head trainer and team doctor.
“He has support,” Odums said. “And the Georgia family has been great to us. They’ve opened their doors to help us with this process.”
Southern, which has an open date this week, did not practice Monday, but Odums plans to rejoin the team when it returns to practice Tuesday.
“As a coach, I haven’t experienced something like this, and the players on the team haven’t experienced it,” Odums said. “It’s a new experience for us, but things like this usually bring you closer together. You rally behind one another; you pull together and you fight together and you pray together. That’s really what we’ve been doing a lot of.
“He’s a guy who has a great work ethic. He has great character. He’s what you would want in a son. I can say that not only about him but about a lot of the players in our program, and I think that’s why our program is able to handle the adversity that is thrown at it. He’s a loving guy and a fun guy to be around. We’re excited that he’s a part of our football team.”
Though Gales won’t be with the team when it resumes football practice, he’s still very much a part of it.
“He’s still with us,” Odums said. “He’s not gone, and we’ve got to go on playing, and all the goals we want to achieve are still in front of us. That’s where our focus will be once we get back on the field.”
Gales, a native of Baton Rouge who played at Central High, is a redshirt sophomore who arrived as a walk-on.
“He’s a hard-working young man,” Odums said. “His first year he was trying to grasp the offense and he was asking a lot of questions, and you could see him getting better the second year. He became a contributor on special teams.”
Gales made some in-roads during preseason camp as he tried to get into the rotation at wide receiver, the deepest position on his team. He caught a 24-yard pass from former high school teammate Jarrad Hayes in the season opener at Louisiana Tech.
The pair worked together a lot on the scout team last season, and Gales had a big performance in the Jaguars’ first preseason scrimmage, catching several passes, including two touchdowns.
After the scrimmage, quarterback Austin Howard gave a description of Gales that should serve him well going forward.
“Devon Gales is a small guy, but he’s lion-hearted,” Howard said. “He isn’t scared of anything.”