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'He’s fighting’: Tennessee State player in critical condition after surgery for head injury

Tennessee State coach Rod Reed (left) speaks to Tennessee State and Vanderbilt players about the condition of Christion Abercrombie. (Mark Humphrey/Associated Press)

They gathered at midfield after the game, concerned about something far more important than the final score.

Tennessee State and Vanderbilt players circled TSU Coach Rod Reed to learn what little they could about the condition of linebacker Christion Abercrombie, who collapsed after suffering a head injury and was taken to Vanderbilt Medical Center, where he underwent emergency surgery Saturday evening. Reed described Abercrombie’s condition as “very critical” in a radio interview Sunday and his mother asked for continued prayers.

“Christion is resting. He’s fighting,” Staci Abercrombie said in a statement released by the school. “We’re trusting God and please continue to pray.”

The linebacker, a 20-year-old sophomore from Atlanta, was injured on what the coach said was a routine play just before halftime and, according to the Tennessean, complained to trainers of a headache when he reached the sideline and collapsed.

“It was just a football play,” Reed said Sunday morning on his radio show. “He was taking on a block and it wasn’t anything malicious or dirty or anything like that. Just an unfortunate situation.”

Reed said that Abercrombie remained in “very critical condition” overnight. “Immediately, you go into concussion protocol at that point,” Reed said. “He was removed from the game and as they were taking him into the locker room he collapsed and the EMTs took over from there.”

After the game, won by Vanderbilt, the Commodores coach opened his remarks by talking about his concern for Abercrombie.

“At the end of the day, I’m a football coach coaching a team and coaching a game, but football’s what we do, not who we are,” Vanderbilt Coach Derek Mason told reporters. “I know what it is to be a coach. I know what it is to have a player who’s injured. At the end of the day, when serious injuries happen, football becomes secondary.”

Reed also asked for “continued prayers” for the linebacker. “Christion’s mom is a great woman of faith and his dad is a really strong guy,” Reed said. “It was obviously an emotional time, but I think that the outpouring of support helped some. And I just ask for continued prayers for Christion and his family because they’re going to need it.”

One of many people who reached out to Staci Abercrombie on Twitter was Ryan Shazier, the Pittsburgh Steelers' linebacker who continues to recover from a spinal injury he suffered last season. In her response to him and to others, Abercrombie emphasized that the family is relying on its faith. As she tweeted to one person, “God is in control! We are trusting God for this miracle.”

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