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Conner Erickson continues to improve with support from community

Conner Erickson is a senior at Brainerd High School and the captain of the Warriors Football Team and suffered a severe head injury on Sept. 9 during a game against Moorhead.

Conner Erickson
Conner Erickson suffered from a serious brain injury during a Sept. 9, 2022, football game and was rushed to Sanford Hospital in Fargo. There are a lot of unknown factors about what caused Conner’s injury, but his family set up a GoFundMe and a Caring Bridge page for updates and donations.
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch
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BRAINERD — The Brainerd lakes community continues to rally behind the senior captain, Conner Erickson, who suffered a severe head injury during a game a couple weeks back.

Conner, in turn, is making progress toward recovery, family members said.

Conner, a 17-year-old Brainerd High School senior and the captain of the Warriors football team, was playing in a Sept. 9 game at Moorhead when he collapsed on the sidelines. Play stopped for about five or 10 minutes, during which he was wheeled on a stretcher into the back of a waiting ambulance parked on the sidelines of the field.

Conner suffered from a serious brain injury and was rushed to Sanford Hospital in Fargo. There are a lot of unknown factors about what caused Conner’s injury, but his family set up a GoFundMe and a Caring Bridge page for updates and donations.

An update on the high school senior’s Caring Bridge page also mentioned that in order to relieve the pressure on his brain, he had a piece of his skull, about the size of a hand, removed from the left side of his head.

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What the family does know is that Conner’s injuries are similar to ones seen in motorcycle accidents when the rider isn’t wearing a helmet.

“The probability of it being from multiple hits in the game is highly unlikely,” said Jared Erickson, Conner’s uncle. “It had to have happened just right before he came off the field essentially, or not long before that because with the severity of it there's no way he could have done much.”

Conner remains in ICU treatment, but he did have his breathing tube removed Monday, Sept. 19. Jared Erickson described these steps as “good steps, but there is a long way to go.”

A girl, selected as Brainerd Homecoming Royalty, holds up the football jersey of the boy who was also seletced as homecoming royalty but could not attend the ceremony.
Ella Anderson holds up the Brainerd Warrior football jersey of classmate Conner Erickson Monday, Sept. 19, 2022, after the two were named BHS 2022 Homecoming Royalty
Contributed / Brainerd Public Schools

Conner currently doesn’t have long term goals set for his recovery yet, Jared Erickson said, but they will assess a recovery plan as he continues to wake up from sedation. A journal entry that his mother, Tina Erickson, posted to his CaringBridge page, said Conner was alert and recognized his family was there with him.

The community has rallied together to support Conner in many different ways. The GoFundMe page is over $76,000 in donations. The first goal of 21,000 was surpassed within the first 24 hours of being online and the second goal of 50,021 was surpassed within the past week. Another additional $18,000 dollars was raised in a T-shirt fundraiser put on by The Teehive. T-shirts are for sale until Sept. 22.

Another fundraiser is set at Blaze Pizza in Baxter. On Wednesday, Sept. 21, to honor Conner’s football number, Blaze Pizza will be donating part of their earnings to the Erickson family.

Fundraising isn’t the only way the community has stood behind Conner’s recovery. Conner was named Homecoming Royalty Monday, Sept. 19, alongside Ella Anderson.

Erickson has also received support from the University of Minnesota’s football team. Each team member sent him a letter and they all signed an oar to give to him. The oar as well as the statement “Row the Boat” is to signify a “never give up mantra,” said P.J. Fleck, football coach for the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers, during an interview with the Pioneer Press. It points to Fleck’s approach to life after the death of a newborn son in 2011.

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“Your back is to the future, which is something you cannot control. You don’t know if there’s rocks, water falls, stormy seas, you don’t know what’s ahead of you,” said Fleck to the Pioneer Press. “You’re rowing in the present, which is the only thing you can actually control, and the only thing you can actually have an impact on. You either choose to take your oars and put them back in the boat and stop, or you put them back in the water and continue to go.”

His own football team has also written messages of encouragement for him and Brainerd area and central Minnesota high schools also have shown their support through hanging up banners and signs and putting Conner’s number on their uniforms.

Also rallying behind Conner’s recovery is Joe Haeg, a professional offensive tackle for the Cleveland Browns. Haeg, a Brainerd High School graduate, donated $7,400 to the family to honor his own high school football number.

Like Haeg, Conner’s dream college is North Dakota State University where he wanted to pursue something like construction management, Jared Erickson said. After the football season was over, he was prepared to take on the role of captain of the Brainerd Warriors hockey team.

“He was taking over as hockey captain, going from football to hockey captain,” said Jared Erickson. “He worked really hard. I think that's one thing he'll be bummed about. He worked really hard in the weight room and in the offseason, in the spring.”

Conner has a long road of recovery ahead of him, Jared Erickson said, but the number of his small steps are increasing every day.

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SARA GUYMON, Brainerd Dispatch, staff writer, may be reached at 218-855-5851 or sara.guymon@brainerddispatch.com

Sara Guymon recently joined the Brainerd Dispatch as a staff writer.
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