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Christion Abercrombie's joyous return from major brain trauma wins over NFL draft audience

The Westlake High alum and former Tennessee State linebacker formally announced D'Andre Walker's draft connection with the NFL's Titans.

Christion Abercrombie could never have imagined this kind of attention last year.

Just eight months ago, this carefree kid had been busy carrying out his dream of playing college football closer to home, serving as a highly productive linebacker at Tennessee State.

Fast forward to last Saturday: The Georgia native (Westlake High alum) had the good fortune of announcing the Tennessee Titans' fifth-round pick at the NFL draft in downtown Nashville, just a few miles away from his college environment.

The small-world selection: One of his friends from the #Team11 rivalry days of metro Atlanta football, UGA linebacker and Langston Hughes alum D'Andre Walker.

The decadent scene at the NFL draft, right off Broadway Street and just a stone's throw from the Cumberland River, was also just a few miles from Vanderbilt Stadium – unfortunately, the venue for Abercrombie's last game as a college athlete. 

* * *

On a warm, early fall Saturday back in late September, Abercrombie and his TSU teammates were on the precipice of beating an SEC opponent Vanderbilt for the first time in school history.

And by all accounts, Abercrombie – a redshirt sophomore at the time – had been playing a prominent role in this possible win for the ages. (Vandy would eventually rally for the 31-27 victory.)

However, tragedy struck sometime in the second quarter, even though it's hard to pinpoint the exact moment when Abercrombie suffered the head trauma that nearly took his life less than an hour later.

After a handful of typically productive plays on the field, Abercrombie returned to the Tennessee State bench. Seconds later, he would collapse to the ground and subsequently be rushed to the hospital for emergency brain surgery.

On this somber day, things broke well for Abercrombie in one respect: He was only three minutes from Vanderbilt University Medical Center, one of the nation's most renowned hospitals for emergency trauma.

"The crazy thing about it is, I don't remember nothing from the injury," recalled Abercrombie to 11Alive Sports in late February, as part of an exclusive interview from the Shepherd Center in Atlanta. "But I do remember (being) at the hospital when I was receiving baths from the doctors and nurses."

"The last thing I remember (on the field) was the Bethune-Cookman (game). We went down there and played. That's about it," he said.

The interesting thing about Abercrombie's recollection: The rout of Bethune-Cookman (34-3) occurred on Sept. 1, four weeks before the Vanderbilt game; and the following two outings on Tennessee State's schedule were canceled, due to inclement weather.

And then on Sept. 22, the Tigers would enjoy their most thrilling victory of the season, outlasting Eastern Illinois, 41-40.

* * *

A few months ago, amid Atlanta's afterglow of hosting the Super Bowl, Abercrombie strolled through the doors of Tennessee State's football facility for the first time since September.

According to TSU's website for news, Abercrombie carved out plenty of time for hugs and handshakes with every member of the Tigers football family, including head coach Rod Reed, a major influence with Christion transferring from Illinois to TSU.

"I missed you all so much," said Abercrombie, who was flanked by his mother Staci, and other family members on this momentous day in Nashville.

"The first thought (of Christion collapsing) was it was scary for us," recalled Staci Abercrombie to 11Alive Sports. "We did not see an (initial) impact or anything that would have led to that. In our minds, we were confused. At that time, we just began to pray and the community was there for us.

"School officials and people from the game were crowding the lobby. Everyone just began to pray. We just began to trust God in the process," she continued. "We didn't have any other choice. We were confused about what took place. We just knew that we had to yield and pray for healing our son."

Those prayers have apparently been answered.

"It's been a blessing from the (early) days that I was at the hospital," Christion told 11Alive from the Shepherd Center, one of Atlanta's preeminent facilities for spinal cord and brain injury rehabilitation. 

"I can't do nothing but thank God. ... It's been good. I can't complain," he added. "I've been having physical and recreational therapy with (his therapists Maci and Chris), and it's done nothing but helped me even more."


* * * 

Of course, Abercrombie had no final say in the Titans' official selection for Round 5, the aforementioned friend in D'Andre Walker.

Abercrombie was merely delivering the message which would appease a Saturday draft crowd of more than 100,000 fans of the Titans, the NFL ... and Nashville's party scene, in general.

The crowd was also happy to throw their full support behind Abercrombie, whose body and faith over the last year have been tested like few other college athletes.

Abercrombie's enthusiasm for the Walker pick had an air of destiny to it. He couldn't hide the joy, appreciation and adrenaline rush of welcoming a player from his home state ... to his adopted home of Nashville. 

Another ideal match.


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