NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The mother of the Tennessee State linebacker who collapsed on the sideline during a game says her son has had some body movement she calls "baby steps" as he remains in critical condition.
Staci Abercrombie said at a news conference Wednesday that the family is asking for prayers as they hope for a full recovery for her son, Christion. She said they've been playing different music for her son, including gospel, and seen him respond by raising his hand or rubbing her nails during different songs.
"So those are the positive signs that we're seeing," she said.
The linebacker went to the sideline during the first half of the Tigers' loss to Vanderbilt last Saturday. He told trainers he had a headache, then required oxygen on the sideline before being taken to Vanderbilt University Medical Center with a head injury for emergency surgery. He is in the hospital's neurological intensive care unit.
Tennessee State coach Rod Reed said on his coach's show the day after the game that he understood Abercrombie had been taking on a block before coming to the sideline. After reviewing game tape, Reed said Tuesday the linebacker was making "routine plays" and the coach couldn't tell when Abercrombie was hurt.
Dr. Reid Thompson, professor and chair of neurological surgery at Vanderbilt, said Abercrombie is in a day-by-day situation. The doctor called Abercrombie's situation rare but praised the response on the sideline, where medical personnel included a neurosurgeon. Thompson declined to comment on whether or not Abercrombie was hurt during the game.
"There are a lot of unknowns here, and that's often the case in situations like this," Thompson said.
The linebacker redshirted at Illinois in 2016 and played 11 games in 2017 before transferring to Tennessee State. He went into last week's game as the Tigers' second-leading tackler and was credited with five tackles and a quarterback hurry before being injured.
Abercrombie's parents were at the game. His mother said they didn't notice anything was wrong with their son until his roommate asked them to come down as text messages hit their phones. By the time they arrived at the hospital, located three-tenths of a mile from the stadium, Christion already was being prepped for surgery.
Living in Atlanta, Staci Abercrombie noted the death last week of Dylan Thomas, a Pike County High School player who died of a severe brain injury after being hurt in a game. She said they have been hearing through social media and messages about success stories, including a Twitter message from Pittsburgh linebacker Ryan Shazier, currently on injured reserve after spinal stabilization surgery.
"Christion is fighting, so therefore, as a family, we're fighting," Staci Abercrombie said. "We're supporting him. We're standing strong in our faith. We're not wavering. We trusting God, and we're trusting God for a miracle. Christion was born on July 4, 1998. I had him at 28 weeks. He came early. He fought, and he fought. He was in the hospital for five weeks. He was on a ventilator. He fought and he fought, and we see him today.
"He's still fighting."