Auburn’s Zac Etheridge’s Road to Recovery

November 3, 2010

Auburn's Etheridge defies the odds

While Auburn continues to soar to great heights this season, far surpassing even the most ardent Auburn fan’s expectations, perhaps no one is more grateful and appreciative than Auburn safety Zac Ethridge. For Etheridge knows firsthand that although football is the game he loves and plays with a fierce and fiery passion, it is still just that, a game. When compared to something as precious as life, it is far minuscule.

October 31, 2009, is a day that will forever live in the mind of Zac Etheridge. Lining up at safety against Ole Miss in the second quarter, Etheridge pursued Ole Miss RB, Rodney Scott, in a seemingly routine tackle. However, as the play ended and as players started to remove themselves from the pile, Etheridge lay motionless on top of Scott. Noticing that something was wrong, the Auburn medical staff ran on the field to examine him. As the  medical staff attended to Etheridge, it was then understood that this was not a typical injury. Fans in Jordan-Hare stood speechless, a pin drop could have been heard in the 80,000+ football stadium. As Gene Chizik made his way to speak with his player, and gain some understanding from the Auburn medical staff, both teams converged from the sideline to the field, many seen praying for Etheridge’s well being.  All the while, Scott continued to lay underneath, not moving a finger.

After several gut-wrenching minutes Etheridge was mobilized and placed on a stretcher. Upon being wheeled off the field, Etheridge gave his teammates and fans the symbolic, thumbs-up gesture. Etheridge was later diagnosed as having a cracked 5th vertebrae, and bleeding in the tissue around his C2 vertebrae. Further examination by doctors at the hospital revealed that not only could Etheridge have suffered permanent paralysis had Scott moved him, but the results of the movement could have been fatal.

Miraculously, Etheridge only spent three days in the hospital. After returning home, Etheridge and his family called Scott, in an emotional conversation, thanking him for saving his life. The two have become great friends since the incident, forming a bond shared by precious few.

Etheridge missed the remainder of the 2009 season due to the severity of his injury, but he accomplished something for more meaningful to him and his family; he graduated in December from Auburn with a degree in Public Administration.

Zac Etheridge returned to the gridiron in Auburn’s first game of the year on September 4th this season. In the contest, he recorded 4 tackles. Fully recovered from his harrowing injury, he’s compiled 30 tackles and 2 interceptions on the year. You would be hard pressed to find another member of the Auburn football team who is more gracious and thankful to be playing on Saturdays than Etheridge.  His road to recovery is something that every division 1 football player can look to as a source of encouragement and motivation.

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