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1 year after suffering brain injury during football game, Conner Erickson is making his comeback

<i>WCCO</i><br/>WCCO has been following the recovery of former Brainerd High School football player Conner Erickson
WCCO has been following the recovery of former Brainerd High School football player Conner Erickson


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    RAINERD, Minnesota (WCCO) — We’ve been following the recovery of former Brainerd High School football player Conner Erickson, 18, ever since he collapsed with a brain injury last September.

Conner says he’s almost back to full strength, and there might even be a safe way for him to get back on the field.

Fourth quarter, four-and-a-half minutes to go. The game film shows linebacker Conner taking a knee on the sideline. A few minutes later, the referees all turn toward the sideline. The announcer then gives a much more ominous play-by-play.

“I don’t remember that night at all,” Conner said. “Even the games before that are kind of blurry, too.”

Playing in Moorhead meant Conner could get to a level 1 trauma center in nearby Fargo. He was in surgery less than 90 minutes later.

“I just came so far from where I’ve begun,” he said.

He’s here, he’s walking, he’s talking. Each is a milestone and miracle no one thought possible after two brain surgeries and a transfer to Mayo Clinic. The initial prognosis was Conner being paralyzed on the right side. At one point, he had lost 75 pounds.

“I didn’t feel myself, it was hard,” he said.

But there were small victories. A first step, a first sentence, and then the first time home after three months. Conner received a hero’s welcome, and then surprised everyone when he left the cane in the car and walked up the driveway.

There was a lot more motivation, too. Hundreds of letters, a gift from the Gophers, a guest of the Vikings at their game against Indianapolis – their biggest comeback win ever.

“They came back and I was like I’m gonna do the same,” he said.

His biggest fans, of course, were his parents: Nick and Trina Erickson.

“His attitude through it all, like from even when he doesn’t remember when he first just woke up, I mean, it’s a smile,” Trina said. “It’s not as hard for us as it is for him right now, given what he’s going through. And he just, every day just kept, ‘Get up, let’s go.’ And he’s smiling and happy.”

“Never got discouraged once, and never had a bad attitude about anything,” Nick said.

Conner was back on the field this spring for high school graduation. He’s been working with his dad, in addition to working on his speech, occupational and physical therapy. He knows he can’t play football again, but Conner says he’d really love to coach.

“Right now it’s kind of like a slow process, but still every day I’m gaining something,” Conner said.

And as he gains strength, we all gain an appreciation for what it means to be a true warrior.

Conner says he’ll continue to work with his dad and continue to build his strength. He says he plans to apply to colleges later this year.

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