By Brianna Patton
September 26, 2015 was not just a typical Saturday…it was ‘Saturday in Athens’ and the highly anticipated matchup of the Georgia Bulldogs vs. the Southern Jaguars. While it was not the usual hyped up SEC matchup, many fans were looking forward to this game for one special event.
In an ESPN article, it was reported that in the $650,000 that Southern University was receiving to play in Athens there was a stipulation that stated “the band of the visiting team agrees to perform at halftime of the game.” The Southern University Human Jukebox was the first time that a HBCU band preformed in Sanford Stadium. The atmosphere was simply electric; it was as if everyone in attendance knew that it would be a great game experience.
Although Heisman candidate Nick Chubb only had 31 rushing yards at the half, the Bulldogs were leading 20-6. The Human Jukebox gave a sensational performance at half time that left those in the crowd astounded. It was then back to business for the Bulldogs as they came back for a strong third quarter scoring four touchdowns.
Chubb, who had two of the touchdowns, picked it up with a huge 49-yard touchdown run taking him over 100 yards for the game. That run gave Chubb 12 consecutive games of rushing for 100 yards, one shy of former UGA Heisman winner Herschel Walker’s school record (13) for the most consecutive 100 rushing yard games. Everything was going as predicted, Georgia was hitting on all cylinders, and Greyson Lambert continued to throw the ball at an insanely accurate percentage. It was a normal kickoff return play where the entire atmosphere went downhill.
Southern University redshirt sophomore Devon Gales was hit on a block by Georgia kicker Marshall Morgan that left him limp on the field. Immediately Sanford Stadium went completely quiet.
Medical personnel and coaches from both teams rushed over to Gales where after several long minutes he was placed on a stretcher and carted off. Both teams kneeled down in prayer and play continued.
While the aftermath of the injury was evident in the changed atmosphere around the stadium, the Bulldogs went on to win 48-6. There was hardly a celebration as members from both teams were worried and focused on the condition of Devon Gales.
Gales had surgery repairing several fractures in his neck the following day at Athens Regional Medical Center where his parents were able to be with their son after flying in at the expense of the University of Georgia. Head coach Mark Richt and other members of the Georgia coaching staff went to visit Gales.
Richt told reporters that “We’re trying to cover him up with as much love as we can and let him know that we care, let him know that we’re here to help.” He also added that “bulldog nation” would be behind him and praying for him as well. Marshall Morgan, who was involved in the collision with Gales also visited the injured player.
Southern University released a statement stating that Gales had a “successful surgery” and the fractures in his neck were stabilized. The statement also mentioned that Gales had movement in his upper body.
Southern University set up an official donation site to assist the Gales family, which several UGA affiliates, including Mark Richt, publicized and urged those involved with UGA in any way to donate. The University of Georgia made it clear that they would provide financial assistance for Southern University and the Gales family if it came down to it.
Southern University’s president Ray Belton sent an open letter to Georgia thanking the program for what they had done for Devon Gales. The way that Greg McGarity, Mark Richt, and others involved in the football program handled this situation is nothing short of a class act. The University of Georgia football program has always prided itself in having a family atmosphere that is evident over the entire program.
This is an aspect that sets the school apart from others when it comes to the recruiting landscape. In the open letter from Belton, he thanked UGA athletic director Greg McGarity, Mark Richt, and the fans for their assistance and support stating that the situation “exemplified the true nature of sportsmanship, caring, and generosity.”