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Aaron Hurst is surprised by his St. Helena teammates and coaches who visited him at Touro Rehabilitation Center in New Orleans . Hurst is recovering from a serious neck injury in a Class 2A semifinal playoff game last week.

Aaron Hurst got a big surprise when his St. Helena teammates and coaches came to the Touro Rehabilitation Center in New Orleans for a visit early last week.

Hurst was showered with gifts and awards. A lot of friendly faces and smiles were nice, too. Incredibly, the best was yet to come.

Just two days after the visit, Hurst learned that his biggest wish — to be home for Christmas — would come true. By the end of the year, the running back/linebacker is scheduled to back home in the Greensburg area while doing outpatient therapy in Baton Rouge, approximately a month after fracturing a vertebrae in his neck.

“I’m thankful for every day, and I keep getting stronger,” Hurst said. “The love and support I’ve gotten is great. Seeing my coaches, teammates and friends meant a lot.”

Hurst’s story continues to be one that has defied the odds since he fell to the turf after making a first-half tackle in a semifinal win over Ferriday. Hurst said he remembers being unable to get up after the play and plenty of things that happened after that.

“I remember pretty much everything,” Hurst said. “I remember riding in the ambulance, being airlifted to the (Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center) and the surgery the next day.”

One day after surgery, Hurst took his first steps with some help of hospital staff. His focus in therapy has been regaining strength and balance while also re-learning some skills.

Whether Hurst will play football again has not been debated. Once he returns to school at St. Helena, he said he would like to run track.

Though he has made some tremendous strides in his recovery, Hurst understands the process also requires patience and a one step at a time approach.

“I try to keep a positive attitude through everything I do,” Hurst said. “I’ll keep working every day and I'm anxious to see what happens next.”

Plenty of others, myself included, are eager to see what happens next for Hurst also.

Another All-American

Former Dutchtown High standout Justin Reid of Stanford earned second-team All-America honors from the Associated Press last week.

Reid, a junior, is the younger brother of former LSU All-America Eric Reid of the San Francisco 49ers.

Red Stick awards

Denham Springs defensive lineman Kaleb Pipes of the Rattlers was selected as the Player of the Game for last week's the U.S. Army/Red Stick Bowl XVI.

Other awards for the Rattlers included: D’Ondre Fisher of Donldsonville (best offensive lineman), Brusly’s Garrett Roberts (best defensive lineman), Live Oak’s Nathan Holliday (best special teams player), Trevon Hill of Mentorship Academy (best linebacker), Denham Springs’ Tyre Golmond (best running back), Jaylin Williams of Donaldsonville (best quarterback/receiver) and DeAndre Brown (best defensive back).

Black Knights award winners were East Ascension’s Chandler Perer (best offensive lineman), Plaquemine’s AJ Riley (best defensive lineman), Preston Stafford of Catholic (best special teams), Catholic’s Andrew Gauthier (best linebacker), St. Amant’s Cade Nelson (best running back), Nathan Carriere of Catholic-PC (best quarterback/receiver) and Cedric Anderson Jr. of East Feliciana (best defensive back).

Prep notable

Former University High player Mikayla Bates had eight steals for Xavier-New Orleans in a recent game against Lindsey Wilson. It was the most steals in a game by a Gold Nugget player in nine years.

Bates is averaging 7.3 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.7 steals per game.

Follow Robin Fambrough on Twitter, @FambroughAdv.