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New Haven Register (Connecticut)
UConn junior linebacker Eli Thomas suffered a stroke on Wednesday prior to a weighlifting session, according to a statement jointly released by UConn and Thomas' family on Monday.
Thomas is currently hospitalized, in stable condition and making good progress toward recovery.
"Thank you all for your love and well wishes for Eli," Mary Beth Turner, Thomas' mother, said in the statement. "To say we are stunned by this turn of events is an understatement. A strong, healthy, 22-year old man having a stroke is not anything we anticipated. However, Eli will fight back as he has with every challenge that has come his way with 'Eli Style.'
"We want to thank every single member of the UConn football staff. They have been tremendous. The love from them, and the team, has been overwhelming. A very special thank you to (assistant athletic trainers) Caitlyn VanWie and Tony Salvatore. Without their quick response, this horrible situation could have been devastating. We owe them more than we can ever repay. Continued prayers for Eli's recovery are appreciated."
Thomas, a native of Elmira, N.Y., played in four games this season and recorded 11 tackles including the sack on the final play of a 56-49 win over Rhode Island.
UConn coach Randy Edsall guided UConn through some tough times following the on-campus murder of defensive back Jasper Howard, an event that happened nearly nine years ago. When asked about the situation on the weekly American Athletic Conference call, Edsall said he didn't want to provide any additional information on Thomas' situation. He did, however, say situations like this serve as a reminder of how precious life is.
"The biggest thing is that every day you just never know what can happen," Edsall said. "Things like this are very unfortunate but it is one of those things where you take one day at a time and do the best you can each and every day because you just never know what can happen."
Thomas suffered a neck injury a loss to Syracuse on Sept. 22 and did not play against either Cincinnati or Memphis.
As his mother referenced, Thomas has dealt with his share of adversity. He suffered three torn ACLs limiting him to four games played from 2014-17 all coming at Lackawanna College in 2015. Thomas worked his way back from his second serious knee injury to make an appearance at a UConn football camp where he ran well enough to earn a scholarship offer from the recently hired UConn football staff. Thomas, who also went from being a non qualifier academically in high school to earning a 4.0 grade-point average at Lackawanna, spoke to Hearst Connecticut Media at the July 31 media day about the opportunity to return to the football field.
"I am excited, it is a hunger that I can't even describe," Thomas said. "Even if I did describe it, nobody would be able to understand. The journey has been crazy but everything happens for a reason."
UConn was off last week and will play at No. 21 South Florida on Saturday at 7 p.m. It will be the sixth time in seven games that the Huskies will face a team without a loss this season.
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