Rangers select Johnathan Taylor
ATHENS, Ga. -- Georgia baseball player Johnathan Taylor, who was partially paralyzed after breaking his neck during a collision in a game against Florida State on March 6, was drafted by the Texas Rangers in the 33rd round of the amateur baseball draft on Wednesday.
Anyone who ever saw J.T. play knows that if he didn't have this tragic accident, he was going to play pro ball at some point.” -- Georgia coach David Perno
"He's a great kid and he's going through a terrible time in his life and we thought this would be something to uplift him," Kip Fagg, the Rangers' director of amateur scouting, told ESPNDallas.com's Richard Durrett. "I've seen the kid play since high school, he was a great player at Georgia."
Taylor, who is completing rehab at the Shepherd Spinal Center in Atlanta, is paralyzed from the waist down but showing signs of improvement. He was released to the rehab facility's day program last month.
"This was truly a classy move and a great gesture on the part of the Texas Rangers organization," Georgia coach David Perno said in a statement released by the school. "J.T. is definitely a player worthy of getting drafted. He's been a big part of our program, and we are all very excited for him. When I talked to him after he got the call, he was in the middle of his rehabilitation work, laughing and having a good time and was thrilled to be drafted."
On Monday night, the Rangers selected Georgia outfielder Zach Cone with the 37th pick overall. Cone is one of Taylor's closest friends and was the player who collided with him in the outfield.
"We talk about being a franchise about family and we care about everyone in this organization, including the kids we draft," Fagg said. "Zach is family and we felt like Johnathan was a good person and someone we wanted to help."
Cone said the Rangers' gesture meant a lot to him.
"That's like one of my best friends," he said. "For them to do that shows a lot about this organization. It means so much to him and our families. He's getting better every day."
Taylor's family is "very proud of him," his mother said in the statement.
"It's just amazing, and when he got the call, his face lit up, and we were all very excited. It was awesome news," Tandra Taylor said in the statement.
Taylor wasn't immediately available for comment.
"Just knowing the relationship J.T. and Zach have, I'm just glad it was the Rangers," Perno told ESPN.com. "J.T. is a guy that definitely was a prospect going into this season and was a guy you had to watch. He was a .320 hitter and could run. Anyone who ever saw J.T. play knows that if he didn't have this tragic accident, he was going to play pro ball at some point."
Taylor, a junior from Acworth, Ga., injured the C-5 and C-6 vertebrae in his neck. He underwent neck surgery the next day at St. Mary's Hospital in Athens to stabilize his spine and was transferred to Shepherd Center on March 11.
"It was tough. Right after it happened, I thought about it a lot," Cone said. "It killed me for a while. I went to see him a lot and he helped me. He's talking and getting better. It made me struggle just thinking about it a little too much."
It was the second time in three years a Georgia baseball player has been paralyzed. In October 2009, freshman second baseman Chance Veazey broke his neck when his scooter was hit by a car near campus. Veazey currently works as a student assistant on Georgia's baseball team.
Mark Schlabach covers college sports for ESPN.com. Richard Durrett covers the Rangers for ESPNDallas.com.