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 STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) -Forget football. Artrell Woods didn't know if he'd be able to walk again after a freak weightlifting accident left him lying on Oklahoma State's training room floor, unable to move his legs.
After blacking out during an ambulance ride, Woods woke up in a hospital to find his mother heartbroken. Doctors weren't sure how Woods' spinal cord would respond to a decompression and infusion procedure. At the least, his career was in jeopardy.
Then came the ray of hope: The morning after his surgery, the sophomore receiver was wiggling his toes.
``It was like a miracle. It was a blessing,'' Woods said. ``When it happened, I really just thought I'd never walk again.''
Woods suffered a fracture dislocation of vertebrae and an incomplete spinal cord injury on July 13. In the weeks since, he's continually regained motor function in his legs, even discarding a walker in time to amble into the Cowboys' media day Saturday on his own.
A white plastic protective shield was strapped around Woods' torso, covering his jersey from Oklahoma State's Independence Bowl win last season. On each side of the shield was an orange OSU logo, and it had been decorated with stickers of the team's Pistol Pete cowboy mascot and No. 83, his jersey number.
``All in all, I feel really good,'' said Woods, wearing receiving gloves he had autographed and planned to give away later at the team's fan appreciation event. ``I feel like I've been making more progress than expected.''
Head trainer Rob Hunt said Woods' rehab is focused on restoring his leg strength and motor skills. He's tried walking in a swimming pool twice and works out his back as much as he can without further injuring it. He lost 20 pounds during his 12-day hospital stay.
``The doctors cautioned us from the beginning that there's no benchmarks,'' Hunt said. ``It's not three months, it's not six months. The severity of the injury that he suffered, it's something that we could wait as long as two years and still have the opportunity to get better.
``He's made remarkable progress in the first three weeks, which encourages us all that this thing may be a shorter recovery than a longer recovery. But it's still a long road for him.''
Woods said he had just completed a step-up lifting drill and was carrying a 185-pound weight on his shoulders when he rolled his ankle.
``After that, I just fell. I tried to get somebody to help me up, but I felt it in my spine,'' Woods said. ``I was like, `No, don't help me up.' When Rob and the other trainers came down and tried to help me up, I couldn't even feel my legs.''
The trainers stabilized Woods and contacted Dr. Brock Schnebel, an Oklahoma City back specialist and the team physician for rival Oklahoma. The 3 1/2-hour surgery was performed the next day.
``I've had some days where I was just real angry with everybody and thinking about my future,'' Woods said. ``I've hurt a lot of people that I care a lot about, and I'm real sorry for that. But then again, there was up days where I was just thinking, 'Man, when I get back, I'm going to be so much better than I was.'''
Woods, who was competing for a starting spot opposite star receiver Adarius Bowman, holds out hope that he'll be able to play again.
``I'm not going to rush it, but I think I'm going to be out there sooner than I expect,'' Woods said. ``After walking after 11 days, you never know.''
He acknowledged that doubt still creeps in sometimes.
``Six to eight months from now, maybe - maybe - we're running,'' Hunt said. ``That may not be for 12 months. We don't know.''
Woods was surprised to receive get-well wishes from fans of Big 12 rivals Oklahoma and Texas Tech as well as Georgia, the Cowboys' first opponent this season. He plans to write thank you cards to everyone who aided in his surgery and recovery.
``I think I'm nicer to people than I used to be,'' Woods said. ``It just made me want to work even harder to get where I want to be. Since I was little, all I wanted to do was go play football in the NFL. It's just going to make me work 10 times harder to get to that point.''

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