By TRISTAN AIRD LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL
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Walking across stage to receive a diploma is an emotional moment for any high school senior.
But to Green Valley football and track athlete LaQuan Phillips, doing so June 9 at the Thomas & Mack Center would be a symbolic triumph to cap a nine-month journey recovering from partial paralysis.
Phillips, 17, returned home to Henderson on Nov. 21 and has been back at school since Monday. He had been rehabilitating at Shriners Hospitals for Children Northern California in Sacramento since Sept. 16.
Phillips, who was a starting weak-side linebacker for the Gators, was injured in a collision during a game on Sept. 5. He suffered a bruised spine that led to the paralysis, from which he has been recovering faster than doctors anticipated.
"Walking across that stage has been on my mind every day," Phillips said. "Graduation is one thing so far down the line that walking by graduation is not that big of an obstacle, especially considering how far I've come."
Phillips, who remains in a wheelchair, successfully underwent surgery on Sept. 7 to alleviate swelling on his vertebrae.
Through vigorous rehabilitation, Phillips has gone from being immobilized in bed at Sunrise Hospital to standing with assistance at Shriners to the brink of walking on his own.
"I'm pretty sure I'll be walking by my birthday," said Phillips, who turns 18 on Jan. 15.
Phillips spends three days per week after school continuing recovery at Healthsouth Rehabilitation Center in Henderson.