ATHENS, Ga. — A University of Georgia lacrosse player shot during an attempted robbery is speaking out for the first time and hopes a new foundation will save lives.
Tate Prezzano was waiting for a bus to campus when he says a stranger came out of nowhere and changed his life forever.
"I was the only one here. I saw someone approach me out of the corner of my eye and by the time I looked up, he already had his gun in my face."
Channel 2 Action News has been following Prezzano's recovery since the robbery happened on April 22.
In a flash, the robber shot him three times, with one bullet stopping a millimeter from his spine. Prezzano fell to the ground as the robber took off.
"I remember everything. The first shot went into my shoulder. Then when I was falling, that's when the second shot went into my neck," Prezzano said.
"I could see all the cars driving past me. I saw all the blood pooling around me. It looked like a movie, it felt like a movie," he said of the moments after the shooting.
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Seven months later, Prezzano is still in pain but is recovering and back in school.
"It did a lot of nerve damage. Almost the entire left side of my body, I pretty much had to reteach myself how to function again," he said.
Prezzano credits people like nurse Phil Haymore, who stopped and helped him until paramedics arrived, and his neurosurgeon with saving his life.
Doctors said Prezzano has already done in months what it would take many people years to do.
"I think him being a very athletic person all helped him towards much faster recovery. If this was someone else, it could have taken years," said neurosurgeon Shashikant Patil.
Prezzano and his family now want to turn this second chance into good. The Prezzano family announced Wednesday the Tate Tough Foundation.
The foundation is an effort to focus on his recovery, raise money for lacrosse scholarships and help increase college campus safety.
"It can happen to anyone at anytime in any place. People need to understand that," Prezzano said.
The family said it's partly through awareness, adding call boxes and video cameras in key areas on and off campus.
"We want to augment what is currently on campus or what is on other campuses the best way they see fit," said his father Dobbin Prezzano.
As for Tate, he hopes to rejoin the UGA lacrosse team next spring.
"We will see, we will push it. Why not try? Given a second opportunity, why not make the most of it?" he said.
Cox Media Group