Devon Butler talked publicly about the shooting for the first time Friday.
Two NIU students are facing charges after a drive-by shooting that critically injured the 19-year-old junior last month.
Butler says he is feeling good and doctors tell him he should be able to make a full recovery.
"It's tough but I'm just thankful to even be here," Butler said.
The middle linebacker for the Northern Illinois Huskies is one of the team's best players, and is also one of its leaders as evidenced by a sack in a game against Temple last season.
He says football occupies much of his focus, at least until the day two weeks ago when he was visiting friends off-campus and was shot in the back -- the apparent unintended victim in a dispute over drugs.
"I was just basically in the wrong place at the wrong time, and the worst case scenario happened," Butler said.
Police arrested and charged two men with the shooting: Mark Orozco, 24, and Richard Van Arsdale, 20, both of Dekalb, Ill., and both students at NIU.
Butler says he's grateful to police for their quick arrests, but mostly he's says thankful to know that he might be able to return to the football field. The former star at Everglades High School in Florida plans to sit out the upcoming season and return next year.
Butler declined to discuss his injuries but he suffered a collapsed lung, and doctors want to keep him from starting to work out for at least six months. The team will be happy to have him back.
"It was a great lesson on how lucky we are to have football and how lucky we are to walk and breathe and love and all the things that matter," said NIU football coach Dave Doeren.
"You got to never take things for granted because you never know what situation life can deal you, so, you know, it just made me love this game a lot much more, made me love my family members and things like that a lot much more and brings a different perspective to life," Butler said.
Butler says he's especially excited to be back with the team before their intra-squad game Saturday, and he says he has been overwhelmed by the letters and other sentiments from people in the DeKalb and NIU community.
The two students accused of attempted murder are being held on $1 million bond each.