Nov. 8, 2012
***The following piece appeared in the Nov. 3 game program.***
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON – Jeremiah Taylor is accustomed to making contact, whether it’s a cold call or making a solo tackle after fighting off a 300-pound offensive lineman.
See, Taylor is Marshall’s junior defensive end making his 19th career start for the Thundering Herd in today’s game against Memphis. He is among the few Herd players from the neighborhood, but his journey from South Point, Ohio, to Edwards Stadium was circuitous, to say the least.
And now that he’s more than arrived, he’s not only respected by his teammates – and the only junior captain with four seniors in that role. So, he’s something of a father figure, not to mention a father for real.
Taylor, a sports management major, and his fiancee, Nakita Clatworthy, have a daughter, Kyra, 4, and a son, Jaiden, 11 months. Clatworthy is a full-time Marshall nursing student, and the couple has been together “about seven years,” Taylor said.
Asked what he does when he’s not being a good dad, fiance, student, football player, Taylor said he likes to “go over to see my mom, Jeanetta, and eat. Steak, baked potato, salad, shrimp are my favorites. But anything, she can really throw down. My dad, Jerry, he can throw down, too.”
Ultimately, with all of his responsibilities, Taylor is a juggler. He once was a telemarketer, too.
“I graduated at South Point (High) in 2006 and my fiancee and I moved out and right after that I went and got a job downtown here on Fourth Avenue,” Taylor said. “I went to work at Sitel, selling insurance mostly. Then a place around the corner CA Cop, paid a little better so I went over there. It was mostly asking for donations.
“We were stretching paychecks as far as they’d go, and I was tired of sitting in a cubicle, and I wanted to make a better life for my family. I wanted to do what I wanted to do, so I thought I’d give football a shot again. Doing this is what I dreamed when I was little.”
Taylor had been a 6-foot-4, 185-pound wideout and tight end in high school. Sitting all day making phone calls, he had ballooned to about 300. He enrolled at Marshall for the fall semester 2009 – his fiancee had been at Marshall since 2007 -- and went out for the football team in the spring of 2010, just after the arrival of Coach Doc Holliday.
Holliday and offensive coordinator and then-line coach Bill Legg saw welcomed walk-on with a big body, a potential center.
Let’s just say he wasn’t Taylor-made.
“It was kind of hectic, my first go-round at center,” Taylor said, laughing. “I could never get the (shotgun) snap… too high, too low, too left, too right, to the running back. It was going everywhere.
“Coach Holliday said they’d try me on defense, so that summer they moved me. I played everywhere up front I was needed, but I ended up at end, behind Vinny Curry, and I just tried to learn. When the season started (2010), I was third string behind Vinny and Marques Aiken.
Then ‘Kees’ (Aiken) got hurt and I was behind Vinny that year, and then last season I moved to the other side (and started 10 games).”
Taylor was presented a scholarship by Holliday prior to last season, helping him ease some of the burden of supporting a family when two adults are full-time students.
“We stretch it out,” Taylor said. “We get the town checks (a monthly scholarship stipend student-athletes receive when they live off campus, about $4,200 per semester at MU) and Pell (Grant) money. You make it go as far as you can. You budget. You just stretch it as much as you can.
“It’s tough sometimes, but I love the opportunities I have, love the grind. I feel like it makes me who I am. And I missed (football). Being out for three years, watching high school and college games, I’d sit there and say, ‘I can do that.’ A part of me wanted to come back and show I could do it.
“It was actually real tough coming back to school and football. You go from getting up later in the day, because I worked evenings in telemarketing, so you sleep in. Then getting up at 5 or 6 a.m., squeezing classes and practice in there, finding babysitters, it wasn’t an easy thing.”
On the day I interviewed Taylor, I wondered just what his day was like. We were in the Big Green Room of Edwards Stadium, not Dairy Queen, but it seemed like a blizzard.
“Today’s been kind of hectic,” he said. “Got up at 6 a.m., came over here, a little film study (on the opponent), went home, ate a little bit, took my daughter to day care, got to take a little nap.
“The little man woke up, so I gave him his bottle. I had to finish my homework, and my fiancée just dropped me off here, and after (interviews) I’m going to go get something to eat right after this.”
Taylor has another year at Marshall and any NFL aspirations are tempered by a man who has
And it was only 12:45 p.m. a Monday, the weekly “day off” from practice for the Herd football team.
Taylor has another year at Marshall before graduation, and any NFL aspirations are tempered by the fact that he isn’t so wide-eyed with the responsibilities he has. Taylor said he and Nakita plan to marry “after school, when things slow down a bit. We’re a family.”
Taylor’s journey has been different from that of his Herd teammates, and they seem to appreciate it. After all, they elected him as a captain. He said he thinks he appreciates the experience in Kelly Green perhaps more than any of those teammates, too.
“I think I do, after going the other way, you know, just working and not having this opportunity to go to school,” Taylor said. “Getting a free education, playing here where the team is loved by the community, there’s no other feeling like it.
“And I do think I appreciate it more, seeing I’m from around here and just getting to do this every day. I love it. It’s pretty special to me to be a captain, have the other guys respect you. They pick guys who live their lives right, do everything by the book, have leadership qualities, guys they feel will make the team better.”
Veteran sports journalist Jack Bogaczyk writes “The Word on the Herd” for HerdZone.com and is Editor of the Herd Insider.