From Walk-on to Captain, Herd's Taylor Finds a Home|
Aug. 28, 2012
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON – When Jeremiah Taylor climbs onto one of the Marshall football team buses Friday for the trip to the 2012 season opener at West Virginia, he might think about what he missed last season.
Then, Taylor has missed much more than one game … but the starting defensive end surely is making up for lost time.
On Monday, Taylor was among about 10 Thundering Herd players who appeared for media interviews. And he displayed perhaps a good reason why a night earlier, he was elected as a rare junior team captain (with four seniors) by teammates.
Taylor got off the Edwards Stadium elevator holding the hand of his daughter, Kyra, 4. In his other hand, Taylor firmly gripped the handle of a child carrier holding his son, Jaidn, 9 months.
He plays the No. 11 Mountaineers at noon Saturday. However, playing Dad is a full-time job, along with student (business major) and football player. His fiancee and mother of their children, Nakita Clatworthy, is a Marshall nursing student.
“It’s kind of an unbelievable story,” said another of those Herd captains, linebacker Devon Arrington. “He shows up as a walk-on after he doesn’t play for three years, they put him at center, and the next thing you know he’s starting at defensive end.”
Let’s just say he’s done more than cross the Ohio River.
Taylor, 24, graduated in 2006 at South Point (Ohio) High. That’s where his unusual route to major college football began.
“Right after that I went and got a job, downtown here or Third or Fourth (avenues) and took care of my family for three years,” Taylor said. “I worked in telemarketing, asking for donations and doing sales. We were stretching paychecks as far as they’d go.
“But I wanted to make something better for my family.”
The 6-foot-4 Taylor decided to go to college. He had ballooned to about 300 pounds – “from sitting around all of the time,” he said -- but the biggest thing was he missed the game.
“Yeah, I did miss it, being out of it for three years, just watching high school games and college games, and I’d sit there and say, ‘I can do that,’” Taylor said. “Doing this is what I dreamed when I was little. I just wanted to come back and show that I could do it.”
Tried at center by Coach Doc Holliday’s program, Taylor struggled with the rudiments of snapping the ball. Herd coaches moved him to defense, and by last season, his sophomore year, he started 10 games. He was the “other” end to star Vinny Curry, now in the NFL Eagles’ camp.
He also was given a scholarship by Holliday, helping ease some of the burden of supporting a family when the adults are two full-time college students. Taylor’s teammates appreciate more than his go-after-it attitude.
“It was actually real tough coming back to school and football,” said Taylor, who has slimmed and toned to 259 pounds and has added about 70 pounds to his bench press since last season. “You go from getting up later in the day, because I worked evenings in telemarketing, so I was sleeping in.
“Then getting up at 5 or 6 a.m., squeezing classes and practice in there, and finding babysitters, it wasn’t an easy thing. But we’re getting through it.”
Taylor coped and prospered. Asked about his life from high school grad to dad to telemarketer to college football player to dad again to team captain, Taylor smiled and replied, “It’s a journey.”
To say that Taylor is looking forward to the 2012 season is an understatement. He sells the Herd hard, perhaps going back to his time sitting in a cubicle making cold calls.
“I am looking forward to it, really looking forward to it,” Taylor said. “Our new scheme on defense has us excited. We’re not just looking to read off what other offenses do like last year. We’re more of an aggressive, go-get-it, attacking defense. I’m excited about how we’re playing and we’re going to have fun with it.
He also forecasts an improvement from the Herd’s 7-6 finish, including a bowl victory, a year ago.
“We’ll be better because we all trust one another,” Taylor said. “There’s that camaraderie, and nobody wants to see one another fail. I can’t explain it, but this team, it’s like a brotherhood we’ve got.
“Last year it started to come together; this year we should add onto it. With a new defense, high tempo offense, new aspects of our game, it’s going to be great.”
“In a way it was kind of surprising I was voted for it, but in another way I kind of expected it,” Taylor said. “I think the other players kind of expected me to step up into that role, because they see me as an older guy, which I am.”
He’s also obviously the best juggler among the Herd.