T.J. Collett will return to Kentucky for 2021 season

The senior first baseman named 2020 Mr. Wildcat will take advantage of NCAA eligibility relief for spring sports

T.J. COLLETT. Kentucky beat Western Kentucky 10-4. Photo by Elliott Hess | UK Athletics

LEXINGTON, Ky. (UK Athletics) – Kentucky senior first baseman T.J. Collett will return for the 2021 season, taking advantage of the NCAA’s ruling on eligibility relief for spring sports student-athletes whose season was cut short due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

He joins fellow senior Zeke Lewis in returning to Lexington for a final season.

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“Four years ago, BBN welcomed me with open arms,” Collett said. “During my time in Lexington, the University of Kentucky has given me every opportunity and resource to become the best version of myself, both on and off the field. Wearing the Blue and White has been an absolute honor and incredibly fun. That’s why I’ll be wearing it for one final ride.

“I can’t wait to give everything I have to my teammates, coaches and fans. I’m blessed Mr. Barnhart and Coach Mingione are giving me the opportunity to go out on my own terms. See you in the fall, BBN!”

Collett, a first baseman from Terre Haute, Indiana, has proven to be one of the nation’s premier power hitters during his career. He clubbed five home runs in just 69 at-bats this spring and now has 26 for his career, averaging one every 14.9 times he steps into the batter’s box. He recorded his 100th career hit this season and finished the 2020 season batting .290 with 10 extra-base hits, 17 RBI and a stout .931 OPS.

The 6-foot-1, 220-pounder is a two-time National and Southeastern Conference Player of the Week who has hit .269 with 44 extra-base hits, 97 RBI and a .519 slugging percentage in 118 career games.

Collett also has starred off the field while at UK, recently being named the athletic department’s Mr. Wildcat and being inducted into the prestigious Frank G. Ham Society of Character for his work in the community. He is a 2020 SEC Brad Davis Community Service Award recipient and a two-time member of the SEC Community Service Team who has been instrumental in UK baseball’s community outreach and service initiatives. He is heavily involved with the NEGU/Jessie Rees Foundation, whose mission is connecting with families of young cancer patients, bringing awareness to their stories, offering them a network of helpful resources and sending the entire family encouragement throughout their journey.

NEGU, which stands for Never Ever Give Up, has worked with Collett on bringing children and their families to UK home baseball games to experience pregame activities on the field and in the dugout, as well as be announced during the game. As part of his work with NEGU, Collett has spearheaded an effort where members of the UK baseball team delivery Joy Jars to young cancer patients. The jars are stuffed with toys, games, and other things to brighten patients’ days while fighting the disease.

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Bryan Kennedy hails from the Bluegrass State. He was born and raised in Owensboro, KY where he graduated from Apollo High School in 2006. Bryan graduated from the University of Kentucky with a degree in Broadcast Journalism and a minor in Spanish in 2010. He also received his master's degree in Sports Media and Branding from Western Kentucky University. While at UK, Bryan was the general manager of the on-campus TV station. He also did sports reporting, anchoring, producing and even the weather for UK Student News Network. While working for UKSNN, he also had the pleasure of covering Coach John Calipari's first press conference when he was introduced as the new head coach of the Kentucky Wildcats; easily one of his favorite moments as a young sports reporter. Before coming to ABC 36, Bryan was a morning anchor and reporter at WXXV News 25, our sister station in Gulfport, MS. He anchored more than four hours of news every day, including morning shows on NBC and Fox. While down south, Bryan had the opportunity to cover the Sugar Bowl, New Orleans Saints and the New Orleans Pelicans. After spending a little more than two years at WXXV, Bryan is extremely excited to return home. In his spare time, Bryan enjoys playing sports, especially rugby. He also enjoys crossfitting and watching sports (obviously). He's extremely excited to cover Central Kentucky. Feel free to say hello and send story ideas toBKennedy@wtvq.com