Johnathan Taylor's goal: to walk, play

Updated: May 12, 2011, 3:25 PM ET
By Mark Schlabach | ESPN.com

ATLANTA -- University of Georgia outfielder Johnathan Taylor, who was left partially paralyzed after breaking his neck during a collision in a March 6 game against Florida State, has regained partial use of his hands and continues to show improvement.

In his first interview since the injury, Taylor told ESPN.com that he's determined to walk again and one day return to the baseball field. Taylor's doctor at Shepherd Center in Atlanta told ESPN.com last month that a majority of people who suffer similar injuries do not regain full use of their legs.

[+] EnlargeJohnathan Taylor
Courtesy of Georgia AthleticsJohnathan Taylor is breathing on his own, has partial use of his hands and is determined to walk again and attend classes at Georgia this fall.

"That's my determination," Taylor said Wednesday. "Right now, that's my goal -- to get back on the field and play baseball because that's what I care most about. But I'm not worrying about long-term. I'm thinking about right now and doing what I need to do."

Taylor, a junior from Acworth, Ga., was severely injured after colliding with outfielder Zach Cone while diving for a line drive in the third inning of Georgia's 7-5 loss to the Seminoles. He injured the C-5 and C-6 vertebrae in his neck and underwent surgery the next day at St. Mary's Hospital in Athens to stabilize his spine.

When Taylor was admitted to Shepherd Center on March 11, he needed to use a ventilator and an electric wheelchair. Now, Taylor is able to breathe on his own and completes daily rehab to strengthen the muscles in his arms and hands.

"I feel a lot better from a couple of months ago," Taylor said. "When I first got here, I had the tubes down my throat and couldn't say much. That was miserable. But since I got out of ICU, I feel a lot better. I feel like I've made so much progress so far." Taylor will be discharged to Shepherd Center's day program later this month and said he hopes to return to classes at Georgia this fall.

Taylor attended the Bulldogs' 6-4 victory over rival Georgia Tech at Atlanta's Turner Field on April 26 and said he hopes to travel to the SEC tournament in Hoover, Ala., later this month.

Georgia's players and coaches visit Taylor nearly every day, and players from Auburn, Georgia Tech and other schools have visited him as well.

Taylor has received jerseys from the Atlanta Braves and Kansas City Royals, and San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey and his wife sent him a get-well card.

"It's meant a lot," Taylor said. "I have great teammates. We're like a family. Just to see them over here means a lot to me. It makes my day to see them. When they're here, it just picks me up a lot. I love it when they come up."

It is 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.

Mark Schlabach | email

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