Taylor learns much from a predecessor
Friday, November 19, 2010
IN BLACKSBURG, VA. In 2006, once recruiting services had rated Tyrod Taylor as one of the country's top quarterback prospects out of Hampton High in the Tidewater region of Virginia, Michael Vick invited him to watch from the sideline in Baltimore when his Atlanta Falcons took on the Ravens. It was the first extended interaction Taylor had with Vick, who attended nearby Warwick High and whose shadow towers over any athlete from the area simply known as "The 757."
But their next encounter - at Vick's small mansion in Hampton, just before Taylor was set to arrive at Virginia Tech as a freshman in the summer of 2007 - came under far different circumstances. Vick, Taylor's idol while growing up, was being investigated for his role in an interstate dogfighting ring.
With a boxing match on in the background, the quarterback who put Virginia Tech on the college football map sat down with the quarterback charged with upholding that tradition. They talked about football, life and, most importantly, avoiding the pitfalls that had devoured Vick.
"Depending on how your career goes and how much success you have, you're gonna have so many people pulling at you, so many outsiders pulling you," Vick said Wednesday in a telephone interview. "I just wanted him to know, 'Take everything in stride, keep your family first and understand the bigger picture of what's important,' and that's his personal development. I just wanted him to be conscious of what he was about to go through and reaching the level of success and stardom that I'd had."
Later that year, Vick reported to Leavenworth, Kan., to serve a 21-month federal prison sentence after pleading guilty to felony charges for his involvement in an interstate dogfighting ring.
Four years later, as Taylor is closing in on his third ACC title in four years at Virginia Tech, he is statistically the most prolific quarterback to ever come through Blacksburg, Va.
But those around him say Taylor's biggest contribution is the manner with which he's conducted himself. Though part of Vick's legacy will forever be tarnished in some eyes, his missteps have served as Taylor's moral compass.
"He just wanted me to go out there and don't follow behind him," Taylor said of his meeting with Vick. "Basically set your own legacy and be yourself. Of course it's always gonna be talked about, some of the guys that came from my area and what they've done. But I have the ability to go out there and do the things that I do and have control of the situations I do so I'll never be mentioned with those guys in terms of the off-field stuff."
This, more than anything, dictates the way Taylor goes about his day, a lifestyle unbecoming of one of college football's top quarterbacks.
When Taylor arrived on campus, many thought he would be the second coming of Vick. His running ability and the flick of his wrist with which he threw the ball - Taylor says he developed that throwing motion from watching Vick as a youngster - only heightened expectations.
But off the football field, Taylor has avoided the spotlight. He has lived alone in a campus apartment the past two years. He doesn't eat red meat and is rarely seen in Blacksburg bars. Instead, on most weekends, Taylor chooses to watch TV or play video games with a few teammates who live in the same apartment complex.
Taylor says he's tried to open up socially since coming to college without "going crazy." He doesn't want to be in a headline for the wrong reason.