ATHENS, Ga. (UGA Sports Communications) — Last Friday marked the University of Georgia’s original spring 2020 graduation date, although the momentous occasion will not be celebrated until commencement in October because of COVID-19.
Amongst the thousands of newest Bulldog graduates, a half dozen football players received their degrees. For one of those players named Shedrick Wynn, a 39-year-old native of Lincolnton, Ga., the journey to officially become his family’s first college graduate and an UGA alumnus began in 1999.
“It hasn’t yet totally sunk in that I am graduating,” said Wynn, who received his degree in Housing Management and Policy. “I am still processing it.”
It is said that “change is inevitable, growth is optional.” Wynn was determined to grow into a graduate, no matter how long it took.
“Perseverance and not worrying about what people think was a big part of it,” Wynn said. “I had a chance, an opportunity in life and the way we were taught when I was young was that you finish what you start. Not having my degree had been eating away at me.
“There were personal, financial and other issues that slowed me down at times, but I never tried to get discouraged from my mission. This has taught me to believe in yourself until the end. I finally feel some validation of all of my hard work over the years.”
Wynn started his Georgia academic and football career in the fall of 1999 and was redshirted. He played the 2000 season under Jim Donnan and the 2001 campaign under Mark Richt, combining for 14 tackles, a tackle for loss and a recovered fumble in 12 games during those two years.
Not only did Wynn emerge as an important piece of the Bulldog defense in 2002, but UGA also delivered its first SEC title since 1982 to the Athens community that season. Lining up alongside Bulldog defensive greats such as Boss Bailey, Tony Gilbert, David Pollack, Sean Jones, Thomas Davis, Greg Blue, Tony Taylor, Kedric Golston, Tim Jennings and others, Wynn played in 10 games and finished with 4.5 sacks and 19 stops as Georgia went 13-1 and topped Florida State in the Sugar Bowl to end the ’02 season.
An injury forced Wynn out of competitive play for what would have been his senior year athletically in 2003. He returned to work at Lincoln County High School, a place where he became only the second freshman in school history to start years before (former Bulldog running back Garrison Hearst was the other).
Wynn and his wife Andrea began to raise a family consisting of their two sons (Jalen, 18, a Cedar Shoals High School graduate, incoming fall 2020 student and football player at Georgia Southern; Cayden, 16, Cedar Shoals student) and daughter (Destiny, 15, Cedar Shoals student).
Eventually, Wynn wound up working for the Caterpillar facility in Athens. In 2013, he and his family had their world rocked with news that Andrea had multiple sclerosis. Wynn knew he needed the health insurance and benefits necessary for his wife and kids. This led him to taking a position as one of Cedar Shoals football coaches, a post that he has served the last four seasons.
“I had been trying to get this degree accomplished since I was done at Georgia, but something always came up,” Wynn explained. “I had to become a caretaker for my wife (Andrea) when she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2013. Things were tough, but everything kind of lined up after that for us to come to Athens and for me to start working at Cedar Shoals.”
Now that Wynn was back in Athens, he listened to the advice of UGA Athletic Association Senior Athletic Director Glada Horvat. She helped re-enroll him to take care of something that been on his mind for nearly two decades.
Suddenly, Wynn was back in class with the current generation of Bulldogs and was able to give them wisdom from someone who had been in their shoes.
“Since I have been back in class with some of the kids, I have gotten an opportunity to talk about my experiences with guys like David Marshall and some others,” Wynn said. “It has kind of been cool to be the old guy in the room. I have tried to tell them about playing hard on the field and working hard off of it.”
A couple familiar names have checked in with him since news of his graduation has circulated. Coach Richt sent Wynn a congratulatory message. Wynn also said Kim Garner, who is the wife of former UGA defensive line coach Rodney Garner, sent him a video of Coach Garner’s reaction upon hearing that Wynn was finally graduating.
Wynn will again have a chance to cheer on his beloved Bulldogs when the next Bulldog football game arrives in Sanford Stadium. The only difference is this time he will applaud the current generation of Georgia players as one of the institution’s graduates.