Corso returns to set of 'GameDay,' with mascot head and all
Lee Corso returned to host 'College Gameday' after suffering a stroke in May
He said that a day after his stroke, he set a goal to return to the set
Corso was back to his old self as he donned Alabama's mascot head
ATLANTA -- ESPN College GameDay host Lee Corso suffered a mild stroke May 16 and was hospitalized for eight days. On Saturday, less than four months after losing his ability to speak and partial use of his right arm and leg, Corso was back in front of the cameras alongside Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit hosting college football's most popular pregame show.
After the two-hour live broadcast from Atlanta's Centennial Park, Corso, 74, talked with SI.com on the GameDay set. Among the topics were his recovery period and what life will be like as he tackles his 23rd year as the sage analyst who caps each show by donning the mascot head of the team he predicts will win that day's biggest game.
SI.com: How long have you been thinking about today's show?
Lee Corso: Since May 17, one day after my stroke. When I woke up on May 17, I started thinking about setting a goal for myself, and that was to be here Sept. 5. At that time, I couldn't talk. I was paralyzed in my right hand and on my right side. I set it as a goal to come here.
SI.com: How do you feel the show went?
Corso: I think it went all right. I stumbled a couple of times. Getting what I want to say from my brain to my mouth is tougher now. A stroke affects your speaking, but I think the show went all right. I'll have to wait and see.
SI.com: Were you nervous?
Corso: I was really nervous. I was nervous because I didn't know if I would mess up or not. I was very, very nervous for this first show.
SI.com: When you guys were doing your production meetings, did it feel like old hat once you were there, or did it feel like your first show all over again?
Corso: I kept quiet. I didn't say much. I didn't do Friday night's SportsCenter [segment]. I didn't do any ABC hits or ESPN hits this morning. I just did the show. I wanted to save my voice so it was ready to go.
SI.com: Did you ever think you wouldn't get back?
Corso: I never had a doubt that I would be here. It kept driving me. As a stroke victim, one of the things I found when I was reading about it is you've got to set a goal, or you won't pay the price that it takes to get through the speech therapy, the physical therapy and the occupational therapy.
SI.com: What were those days in the hospital like?
Corso: I was in a fog. I remember that I couldn't read and comprehend anything. I couldn't talk and make any sense of what I was saying. That was the most discouraging thing. I went to my speech therapist, my physical therapist and my occupational therapist until I graduated from therapy school -- with honors (laughing). They said I did OK. It's been less than four months, so I've been fortunate.
SI.com: While you were recovering, who were some of the people you heard from to wish you well?
Corso: I would rather not say anyone specifically, but it was a lot of people -- a lot of coaches, people in college football. I don't want to single anyone out because they are all important. I [received] a lot of messages from stroke victims from all over the country. I got so many encouraging messages that I could do it.
SI.com: How has the reception been in Atlanta?
Corso: So many people have told me it is good to have me back, and that makes me feel good. I haven't done anything before today.
SI.com: Are there any areas where you feel you are still not 100 percent? I could see you drinking water with your right hand and writing things down during the show.
Corso: I can do everything. My speech is still affected. I have to be very careful to swallow. If you don't swallow, you get a lot of saliva in your mouth and you will slur your words. I had to constantly swallow up here. I stumbled a couple of times, but that's only natural when you've had a stroke just a few months ago.
SI.com: Your doctors have cleared you to travel for the rest of the season?
Corso: The doctors have cleared me to do everything. In fact, I can do everything. I haven't been sick since I've had the stroke. The only thing it affects is the brain.
SI.com: Was it fun putting the Alabama mascot head on at the end of the show?
Corso: Oh yeah, that was good. I put the Tide on, and I don't even have to speak. The reaction is pretty good. The crowd seems to wait for that moment when I put the hat on.
SI.com: I think I know the answer, but are you glad to be back?
Corso: I can't tell you how important it was to me to get here. If it wasn't for setting the goal of being here at the beginning of the year, I don't know if I would have made it. I am very thankful.
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