JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A former high school football star paralyzed by a spinal cord injury during a game graduated from the University of North Florida on Friday.
"We listened to the doctors tell us all the things I wouldn't be able to do. So graduating college is a big milestone in my life," said J.T. Townsend.
Townsend, now 26, decided early in his recovery that nothing could stop him from conquering his dreams. He's thrilled about his UNF sports management degree, but that's not the only thing going for him. After his injury, he started the J.T. Townsend Foundation, which raises money to provide medical equipment and help to others with disabilities in northeast Florida.
He is very involved in the nonprofit and is there for every delivery to children in need.
"I'm able to take that equipment to the family and see the smile on their faces," Townsend said. "They're just overjoyed by what we can do for them."
Townsend was injured in October 2004 while playing for Episcopal High School as a strong safety and defensive captain. The senior was involved in a violent collision on the field during a game against Bishop Kenny High School, and he was rushed to the hospital.
Townsend said he's loving life these days and wants the same for everyone else.
"As long as you have drive and just continue to pray and just know that there's still life out there, to continue on," Townsend said.
Townsend's family couldn't be more proud of his accomplishment of graduating college.
"You know, his perseverance, his dedication, his commitment, his hard working, you know, this wasn't an easy journey, but he persevered through it," said Carmen Townsend, JT's mother.
Townsend says because he was injured while doing what he loves -- playing football -- he knew sports management was the right major for him, and now he hopes to turn that into a career.
"Marketing. Anything with Jaguars," Townsend said of what he hopes to do. "I love the marketing area."