Devon Gales will receive quite the welcome back to Southern on Saturday.
The Baton Rouge native and Jaguars wide receiver, who suffered a severe spinal injury in a game at Georgia in September, is set to return home Saturday and will be recognized between games as the Southern men’s and women’s basketball teams play Prairie View in their regular-season finales in the F.G. Clark Center.
Southern is encouraging the public to welcome Gales as he returns from Atlanta, where he has been rehabbing since spinal surgery Sept. 27, a day after he was injured on a kickoff return.
“We’re glad that he can be home and that the whole Southern University family and students and not only that, but the city of Baton Rouge, can participate and welcome our own back,” Jaguars interim athletic director/men’s basketball coach Roman Banks said. “A lot of people have sent letters, sent cards, sent emails wondering about his condition, saying they’re praying for him and wondering when he’ll be back and what they can do.”
Tip-off for the women’s game has been moved up an hour to 2 p.m. to accommodate an on-court presentation to Gales between that game and the start of the men’s game, which remains at 5 p.m.
Saturday also is Senior Day as Southern honors both the women’s and men’s seniors, who will be playing their final home games.
“When he comes back in this building, to pack this building for him and to give him a standing ovation and show the spirit of love, I think will be great for him,” Banks said.
This will be the first time Gales has been in Baton Rouge since the football team departed for Athens for the game against Georgia. The third-year sophomore plans to return to school and finish his degree. Banks said Southern will “make sure his education is paid for until he’s finished.”
Gales and his family are scheduled to arrive at Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport at approximately 11 a.m. Saturday. They will be greeted by a welcoming party comprised of university and athletic officials.
Then, Gales will be reunited with his football teammates in a closed meeting in the A.W. Mumford Fieldhouse. Gales’ on-court presentation will follow the salute to the women’s seniors.
At the conclusion of the men’s game and the postgame salute to the seniors, fans will have an opportunity to welcome Gales back during a meet-and-greet session.
Follow Les East on Twitter, @EastAdvocate.