Wearing a navy hoodie with “Cavaliers” printed across the chest, University of Virginia football player Perris Jones walked up to the microphone, flashed a smile and asked, “How are you guys doing?”
Nearly 20 days after suffering a spinal injury that required surgery and extended care away from his home, Jones on Tuesday was a beacon of positivity while speaking ahead of his imminent release from the Frazier Rehabilitation Institute in Louisville, Kentucky.
“I’m grateful,” Jones said during a press conference at the institute, “I’m eternally grateful.”
Jones, a senior running back for the Cavaliers, was injured in the third quarter of UVA’s game against the University of Louisville on Nov. 9. As he lay motionless on the field, training staff members from both teams came to his aid. He later underwent spinal surgery at UofL Hospital, followed by physical and occupational therapy at the Frazier Rehabilitation Institute.
Tuesday, the UofL Health staff joined Jones to celebrate his impending return to Charlottesville, where he will begin the next phase of his recovery.
HAPPENING NOW: after weeks of rehab University of Virginia Football player Perris Jones is released from U of L hospital following a spinal injury during a @uofl football game. @WDRBNews pic.twitter.com/26bu84rBAX
— Joel Schipper (@JSchipperWDRB) November 28, 2023
“I’m just in awe, as everyone else is,” said Stevie Jones, Perris’ father, who’s been by his son’s side the last three weeks, “but I’m eternally grateful that he was wheeled into this place and we will walk out.”
UofL Health’s Dr. Camilo Castillo, who directs the Spinal Cord Injury Program at the Frazier Rehabilitation Institute, said Jones had a spinal cord contusion that had to be diffused.
“One thing we did is we restore function,” Castillo said. “We also inspire resiliency. It was an honor to take care of [Jones]. You’re part of our family now.”
Dr. Jason Smith, UofL Health’s chief medical officer, thanked Jones for the “hard work” that went into his recovery.
“It really does come down to grit,” Smith said. “We sometimes have the easy part, as it relies on the patient’s grit and determination to the outcomes that they have. I think you’ve demonstrated that in your life thus far and continue to demonstrate that for all of us.”
Echoing his dad, Jones was appreciative for the care he received.
“I firmly believe everything happens for a reason,” Jones said. “My dad and I talk about it all the time – it’s no coincidence that the injury that took place, took place in this specific place [with] the best neurosurgeons and spinal cord injury surgeons and the best rehab facilities that the world has to offer, in my opinion.”
UVA head coach Tony Elliott visited Jones in the hospital two weeks ago, and he said his Wahoo teammates have remained in constant touch.
“They’re family for life,” Jones said. “Family first, last and always is something we build our program off of and that truly has held strong throughout this entire process.”
Jones, whose football career is likely over, has bachelor’s degrees from UVA in both African American studies and English. The Alexandria native is pursuing a master’s in educational psychology.
“I want to potentially help underprivileged kids in socioeconomic areas that are struggling and try to give those kids more opportunities,” Jones said of his future plans. “So, I want to shed light on that and try to build those communities up.”
Courage is not having the strength to go on; It is going on when you don’t have the strength. pic.twitter.com/WJSeeGueNb
— Perris Malique Jones (@p__m__j) November 26, 2023