- Associated Press - Saturday, June 18, 2011

ATLANTA (AP) - Three months after a devastating on-field collision between University of Georgia outfielders Zach Cone and Johnathan Taylor left Taylor partially paralyzed, the two were side by side again on Saturday as draft picks of the Texas Rangers.

Cone said he believes Taylor will walk again because “he’s the most positive person I’ve been around.”

Taylor showed his positive attitude when asked about his goals.

“Right now my goal is to get better during the rehab and focus on trying to get my legs back under me again and start walking and running and get back on that field again, like I always wanted,” Taylor said.

Cone, the 37th overall pick in this month’s draft, agreed to terms on a deal with the Rangers on Saturday and is headed to Class A Spokane.

Taylor, drafted by Texas in the 33rd round last week, was with Cone and first-round pick Kevin Matthews, a left-handed pitcher from Richmond Hill (Ga.) High School, before the Rangers‘ game against the Braves. Matthews, who also agreed to terms on Saturday, will report to the Rangers‘ rookie team in the Arizona League.

Taylor was left paralyzed from the chest down after he broke his neck in the collision with Cone. He is undergoing outpatient treatment at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta.

Rangers senior director of player personnel A.J. Preller said the team has made a donation to the fund established for Taylor’s rehabilitation.

“It’s something gong forward we’ll be out there supporting him any way possible,” Preller said.

“His goal is to get better every single day. That’s a goal we talk to our players about in our organization. That’s what we’re going to put in front of Zach and in front of Kevin, every single day to try to go out there and make yourself better. That’s where it’s a very good match.”

Cone said he feels better by seeing Taylor make progress.

Cone was knocked unconscious but he made the catch before colliding with Taylor on the play against Florida State. The speedy Taylor, who drove in the game-winning run against the Seminoles the day before, was playing center field when he crashed into Cone, who was playing in left.

Cone managed to walk off the field. An ambulance drove onto the field to take Taylor away.

“It was really a scary moment,” Georgia coach David Perno said Saturday.

“You’ve seen a lot of different collisions and a lot of serious injuries, but you’ve never seen one as serious as this.”

The collision may have left Cone’s psyche scarred. He hit .363 with 10 homers and 53 RBIs as a sophomore but only .275 with four homers and 35 RBIs this year as a junior.

“Yeah, it’s a lot of ups and downs, having to go through what we went through wasn’t easy,” Cone said. “It kind of got me a little bit.”

Perno and Cone said they were impressed the Rangers drafted Taylor.

“This is awesome,” Cone said. “It shows a lot about the Rangers organization and how they care about their players. After our accident, it was hard for both of us. To be here right now and know we’re both teammates again, it’s awesome. You can’t even bring words to it.”

Some doubt Taylor will walk again. His mother, Tandra Taylor, says she knows better. She says she heard the same thing when she shattered her right knee in a car accident two years ago.

“They didn’t think I was going to walk,” Tandra Taylor said as she wore a blue Rangers T-shirt on Saturday. “They even thought about amputating my leg.”

Tandra said her recovery took two years.

“As soon as I came back, this happened to him,” she said, adding her son shows the same determination to disprove the skeptics and already shows “great improvement.”

“He has not missed one day of therapy,” she said. “If they would let him go seven days, he would.

“He’s coming back. He’s definitely coming back because you can’t stop someone who is determined to do something, no matter what they say.”

Rangers director of amateur scouting Kip Fagg said after talking with Tandra Taylor, the team will not sign Taylor to a contract.

“Our focus right now is for Johnathan to stay here in Atlanta and rehabilitate from his injury and finish his school,” Fagg said. “That’s the most important thing right now.”

Taylor and Cone were on the field for batting practice and Taylor met several players including one of his favorites, Josh Hamilton. He said he often played the Texas Rangers on video games before he was surprised to be drafted with Cone by the team.

“It’s a dream come true,” he said.

“It’s a great thing after what we both have been through. We have stayed strong together. I thank the Rangers for what they did, keeping us together.”