National

Virginia running back Perris Jones returns home after spine surgery and nearly three-week rehab stay

Perris Jones is returning home to Charlottesville, Va., almost three weeks after he suffered a horrific spine injury in Virginia's game against Louisville.

On Tuesday, Jones was discharged from the Frazier Rehabilitation Institute in Louisville, where he had been receiving physical and occupational therapy since Nov. 17. The senior running back for the Cavaliers was transported to the rehab center following a successful spinal cord surgery on Nov. 10 at the UofL Hospital.

Jones spoke at a press conference after his release and immediately thanked the medical personnel who attended to him since he was injured on Nov. 9.

"I just want to say thank you," Jones said in a press conference Tuesday. "Thank you to the UofL Health System, the UofL athletics department, Frazier Rehab. You guys have had excellent doctors, nurses, aides, therapists, and my family and I couldn't be more grateful for the treatment that we received here.

"It's not something that you plan for, right? It's not something that you ever expect to happen. It's not something you want to happen, but it did. … My dad and I talk about it all the time, it's no coincidence that the injury that took place in this specific place. The best neurosurgeons and spinal cord injury surgeons and the best rehab facilities that the world has to offer, in my opinion. You couldn't ask for a better place to be for this injury to take place. So I'm truly grateful for that."

In Virginia's game against the Cardinals, Jones caught a 7-yard pass from Anthony Colandrea and turned up field. Cam’Ron Kelly and Jones had a helmet-to-helmet collision, and the sixth-year back laid on the turf. During the press conference, Jones said he immediately went limp.

"Right away, I couldn't feel anything," Jones said. "After the hit, I just kind of realized my body [went] numb, in a sense. Then I hit the ground and didn't really feel myself hit the ground, just kind of was sitting there like, 'What in the world is happening?' The UofL trainers were there right away. The first thing I echoed was that I couldn't feel anything, I couldn't move.

"As I said earlier, I'm a very faithful guy. So I just closed my eyes, said a quick prayer and told the Lord that I was listening because I do believe everything happens for a reason and that kind of gave me a little calming presence."

Medical staff at the game immediately immobilized Jones, got him onto a cart and transported him to the University of Louisville Medical Center. Following his surgery, Virginia announced that the team's leading rusher (393 yards) was making progress and starting to walk.

Dr. Jason Smith explained that an “anterior fusion and decompression” procedure was done on Jones to address the bruising, swelling and fluid build up on his spinal cord. The UofL Health’s chief medical officer said that the hope was that in doing so following injuries could avoided or mitigated.

Jones, who has two bachelor’s degrees, said he will always love what football gave him, but his focus is on rehabbing and completing his master's degree.

“I’ve been at UVA for the past six years, and they’re supportive of my family and I have never wavered in that six years, and for that I’m truly grateful,” Jones said. “I definitely have heard from my teammates and their sense of humor has kept me going. … Their sentiments that they’ve echoed and sent to me and their support has meant the world to me. They’re family for life. Family first, last and always, something that we build our program off of and that truly has held strong throughout this entire process.”