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Veazey, Taylor join graduates

Story by Christopher Lakos/UGA Sports Communications

Johnathan Taylor and Chance Veazey pose with former UGA teammate Brett DeLoach aft Friday's graduation ceremonies. (Photo by UGA Sports Communications)

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

While Johnathan Taylor (J.T.) and Chance Veazey arrived in Athens a year apart, they will be forever linked.

Both exceptional baseball student-athletes, they had their playing careers end prematurely due to separate accidents that left them paralyzed.

Nothing prepares someone for a life-altering incident that Veazey experienced in Oct. 2009 (in motor vehicle accident) or for Taylor in March 2011 (in an in-game collision in the outfield).

College began for them in Athens and then was interrupted with a stay at the Shepherd Center, where both completed rehabilitation to adapt to their new life.

Then it was back home to Tifton, Ga., for Veazey and Acworth, Ga., for Taylor, but ultimately they returned to the Classic City. One goal never changed for this Bulldog duo, as one thing each set out to do when they first arrived on campus was to graduate.

And Friday, they did.

Taylor and Veazey were among the 42 UGA student-athletes that received degrees at Fall Commencement in Stegeman Coliseum.

Family, friends, and all those in the Bulldog Nation that have continued to support Taylor and Veazey celebrated their steadfast dedication. Both completed internships this past summer that provided a glimpse of life after college. That concept can be daunting for some individuals, perhaps more for athletes after their career ends. For this duo, it was just the latest achievement.

Taylor looks to use his degree in Consumer Economics to begin a career as a financial manager.

“One mountain has already been climbed," said Taylor. “It was difficult, but I overcame it, and I’m thankful for the support from my family, friends, the community. It made the journey a lot easier. It’s a big accomplishment, and it feels great to see a lot of people get up early this morning and make it to my graduation.”

“It’s pretty cool to see everybody together. You get to see them one last time, and that makes it special,” said Veazey who earned a degree in Risk Management and Insurance. “It’s a bittersweet day. You get school over with, but I start work in a couple of weeks, and I’m sure I’ll be saying I wouldn’t mind studying for a test. I’ve found a good job, and we’ll see what happens.”

Veazey is in the Agent Aspirant Program with State Farm and will work locally in Athens with Shane Dekle. Veazey said his goal is to run his own agency one day.

“Sometimes we think we have problems in our own life, and then you take a look at those two individuals and see what they’ve had to overcome from a physical standpoint, and it makes you appreciate everything we have in our lives,” said UGA J. Reid Parker Director of Athletics Greg McGarity. "Chance and J.T. put the work in. They are a remarkable story. We will always be here for them as well as for all our student-athletes graduating.”

Along with Taylor and Veazey, Brett DeLoach (Management) and Joey Side (Sport Management) were among the baseball student-athletes graduating Friday.

Head coach Scott Stricklin plus former Bulldogs Zach Cone, Kyle Farmer, Michael Palazzone and Tyler Maloof were in attendance at a UGA Athletic Association graduation breakfast with more expected to attend graduation.

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