Isaac Griffith's doctor said the Indiana football player is not out of the woods yet, but he is past any immediate danger.
Griffith remains in serious but stable condition and was able to sit up and walk Friday, Dr. Kenneth Hurwitz said.
"It's a good day to smile," father Shannon Griffith said. "Isaac has been winning little battles every day. I know we still have a few more to face, but we have tremendous faith in his care team and are very hopeful that things will be back to normal for him very soon."
Griffith was moved out of the intensive care unit at Sarasota Memorial Hospital. He continues to be monitored and treated for pneumonia, lung damage and risk of infection from the salt water that was trapped in his lungs.
Indiana freshman student Mitch McCune pulled Griffith out of the ocean Monday as Griffith was drowning. Griffith awoke Wednesday from a medically induced coma and on Thursday emerged from a state of heavy sedation.
Hurwitz expects Griffith to make a full recovery, an outcome that was far from certain when rip currents swept him under. McCune performed about eight minutes of CPR, and Griffith arrived at the hospital unconscious.
Hurwitz said a mere five minutes without oxygen is enough to cause a severe brain injury and permanent disability.
"A lot of the credit goes to his friends," Hurwitz said. "They put themselves at serious risk to help him. Two or three minutes longer and it would have been a different story. The heroic actions of his friends who risked their own lives to pull him from the rip current – and who then performed CPR until paramedics arrived – not only saved his life, but his quality of life."
Griffith's mother, Kim, learned of the accident Monday evening and then phoned Shannon.
"It dropped me to my knees." he said. "It was the worst call I ever got in my life."
Doctors believe being in the shape necessary to play football played a part in Griffith's surprisingly successful recovery.
"Not too many people walk away from that," Shannon Griffith said. "Because of his physical conditioning, the daily regimen, the cardiovascular and strength training, good nutrition – all those things, that's how we win football games. For me, now, that's how you save your life."