A South Carolina junior wrestler who was not expected to walk or talk again after he suffered traumatic brain injuries in a horrific car crash has spoken his first words in nearly two years.
The moment, captured on video, shows 16-year-old Jackson Gannon of Honea Path, South Carolina, saying the words "she" and "shoe."
“I was just getting him ready for bed and decided to record just in case he did say anything,” Morris told ABC News in a phone interview. “After I cut the camera off, I hugged him and told him ‘You did it!’”
In June 2017, Gannon, his older brother Carter and Carter's girlfriend Carmen were on their way to the Atlanta airport to take a cruise to the Caribbean when they were involved in a head-on collision. Jackson was trapped in the back seat and was smothered by airbags, leaving him without oxygen for about 45 minutes, his mother said.
Though he was expected not to walk or talk again, Morris said Gannon took his first steps just months after the crash and has been relearning how to eat and use the bathroom on his own. She said the most recent breakthrough is the culmination of thousands of hours of physical, occupational and speech therapy sessions combined with unrelenting prayer and faith.
"We were just determined because we knew he didn't want to sit in a nursing home for the rest of his life," Morris said.
After I cut the camera off, I hugged him and told him ‘You did it!
At the time of the crash, Jackson was a member of the Belton-Honea Path High School wrestling team. Head coach Chris Strickland created the Jackson Strong Award in 2018 and it is given to a wrestling student who attends every practice for the whole season.
“It’s the only award we hang in the wrestling room,” Strickland told ABC News in a phone interview. “The true grit and determination that Jackson has is the embodiment of what I want in a superior wrestler.”
The day before the crash, the wrestling team had returned from a wrestling camp organized by Fellowship of Christian Athletes. There Jackson met Tom Ryan, the head wrestling coach of the Ohio State University Buckeyes. Ryan returned to the camp the following year. Jackson also returned -- this time with his mother who told the campers about the car crash and Jackson's progress. Ryan was touched, so much that he has invited Jackson to visit Ohio State University and is exploring ways to bring Jackson on the wrestling team.
The Buckeyes finished as national runner-up at the 2019 NCAA Championships, marking the fifth consecutive top-three placement for the team during Ryan’s tenure. He says having Jackson on the team could propel the team even further.
"Jackson can teach the players something I can't teach them," Ryan told ABC News in a phone interview. "And that's heart and determination."
Morris posts videos of Jackson engaging in very minimal contact wrestling on the Praying for Jackson Facebook page.
“I have complete faith the lord is going to restore my son back to 100 percent,” she told ABC News.