From his peers’ eyes: Taylor takes the high road

Ask any young athlete if it is his or her dream to play sports at a junior college and you will more than likely get a resounding “no” in answer.

Yet this is the reality for the majority of collegiate athletes.

Junior defensive back Robert Taylor is one of such athletes who took this long road, and in no way was this journey to the Pac-12 handed to him.

“Junior college is a gritty experience, we were all just trying to get out,” former teammate Khalil Hodge said. “We all knew what goal we had.”

Many athletes use junior college as a stepping stone toward playing at a higher level of competition like the Pac-12 later on as opposed to immediately playing at a bigger program and getting lost or overlooked.

Taylor found himself in this exact situation coming out of high school like so many others before him. JC ball became an opportunity to resurface.

Taylor attended four different high schools in as many years. As a junior at Castro Valley High School, he earned All-West Athletic Conference honors and in his senior season, Taylor garnered All-Bay League honors while attending Deer Valley High School.

“Rob is resilient – he went to four different high schools,” Hodge said. “It takes a lot of resiliency to learn four different play books each year.”

Following the conclusion of his senior season, University of California-Davis (UC Davis)and Sacramento State offered scholarships to Taylor. Taylor originally decided to head to UC Davis to kick off his collegiate career, but ultimately ended up leaving his full-ride scholarship to take on the grind of junior college football after one season.

“When guys usually get into a new program, they take a back seat,” Hodge said. “Rob stepped up and he wanted success a lot and for him to take that shot with only one year you can tell he wanted it.”

As a sophomore at San Francisco City College (CCSF), Taylor played for Head Coach Jimmy Collins. Taylor was named to the All-Northern California 6 League team after recording 47 tackles – 1.5 for loss – with five interceptions and six pass breakups on the season. Taylor also averaged 11.6 yards-per-punt return and ran one back for a score.

“He’s a guy that will not settle,” Collins said. “He believes in hard work and doesn’t want anything handed to him. He wanted to pursue the highest level of Division I football.”

Taylor’s hunger for success never interfered with his ability and desire to help others along the way. He was always there for his teammates on and off the field.

“He approaches football, a janitor, teachers, or anyone the right way,” Collins said. “Guys tend to gravitate to him. He’s an unbelievable young man on and off the field.”

With only a year of junior college under his belt as a transfer, Taylor is already stepping up as a leader for WSU. Taylor returned a 100-yard kickoff for a touchdown two weeks ago in the team’s 37-32 win over Arizona State and earned Pac-12 Special Teams Player of the Week honors. He was the first WSU player to win a weekly Pac-12 honor this season.

Defensive Coordinator Alex Grinch said Taylor has both the mental toughness and athletic ability other players thrive off. Grinch said Taylor is the same player he saw on tape at CCSF, a pleasing development for a coach.

“Once you establish yourself as a starter and every week you become more and more comfortable with what we are, and who we are in terms of both defensive calls and how we play the game,” Grinch said. “It’s a natural role for a kid like that in terms of communicating with the defense.

In a way, as the Cougars sit at 6-2 overall and 5-0 in Pac-12 play and tied for first in conference play with No. 5 UW, Taylor’s nickname of “run it back Rob” says it all. He has already made his presence felt on the Palouse.