ATHENS — Marshall Morgan said the message from Devon Gales was simple, and short.

“Good to meet you finally,” Morgan said.

Morgan and Gales met Saturday night for the first time since their collision in a September game led to Gales’ paralysis. Morgan had met Gales’ family, and Gales had sent well-wishes back through the media and others. But it wasn’t until the Dawg Walk before Saturday’s UGA-Georgia Southern game that the two had a chance to embrace.

“I got to give him the big hug when I saw him. I was happy about that,” Morgan said. “It was just awesome to see him here supporting us. And his family, giving them big hugs. He just looks like he’s in good spirits, and I hope he keeps pushing through it and gets better. I’ll be praying for him.”

Gales, in a wheelchair and surrounded by family, was near the end of the field at Sanford Stadium as the Bulldogs entered along the home sideline, headed to the locker room.

UGA had 120 players dressed, all going through the Dawg Walk and exchanging handshakes and occasionally a hug with Gales.

So coach Mark Richt, who was hanging behind Gales much of the time, was worried about something else.

“You’ve gotta be exhausted right now,” Richt said he told Gales. “He just said no, it was great rehab for him. Just a great spirit about him. He truly knows where his spirit and soul are.”

Richt felt it should hit home a bit more to his players to see Gales in person for the first time since September.

“It just becomes a lot more real,” Richt said. “We were all there when it happened, then you don’t see him for awhile. You think about it, you’ve got his number on your hat, you think about him, but to see him in person I think is really meaningful to our guys.”