ROGERSVILLE - The Cherokee High School varsity quarterback seriously hurt in a spring practice returned to the sidelines Friday night to cheer on his teammates in a 58-6 blowout victory against the Sullivan Central Cougars.
J.T. Brooks suffered a spinal cord injury during a fall in a May 23 scrimmage, effectively paralyzing him from the chest down.
"Everybody is supporting me. I know they want me back as soon as I can, and I just want to get better," Brooks said Friday.
Hundreds packed the Cherokee High School stands wearing #FightFor5 shirts during Friday night's home game. The hashtag gained national attention on social media with celebrities from Peyton Manning to Robert Duvall expressing their support. Rocky Top Printing sold at least 4,000 #FightFor5 shirts.
FIGHT FOR 5 GAME WAS LIT. OUR STUDENT SECTION WAS A SUCCESS. Go Chiefs!👊🏼⚪️ pic.twitter.com/F0f3qzROnT— CHS (@trailofcheers) September 3, 2016
Brooks spent the summer at the Shepherd Center Rehabilitation Facility in Atlanta. He has regained control of his fingers, but it's not certain whether he will walk again anytime soon.
"I'm a lot further than I should be in my injury, and I'm getting a lot stronger," Brooks said, adding that he's been working out his triceps.
Friday marked the first time Brooks returned to Cherokee High School since his therapy began.
"The first thing he did when he came from Atlanta was come straight here just so he could see friends and teachers," Cherokee head football coach Cody Baugh said.
Baugh said it's been an emotional journey for the entire team, himself included.
"J.T. was one of the first kids I knew, getting this job in January," he said. "Being right there when he got hurt, there's just a constant bond there."
Locker is ready... I'm home bound pic.twitter.com/h0HC5wpwbN— J.T. Brooks (@Jater5) September 2, 2016
Wearing my #FightFor5 shirt, wishing I could be home tonight for his arrival! Praying he makes it safely! ❤️🙌🏽— Samantha Gatewood (@sampachelle) September 2, 2016
(© 2016 WBIR)