After this season, UAB linebacker Tyler Taylor is out of college football opportunities.
This is it. He is a sixth-year senior. His career included a major self-made roadblock, a few nagging injuries, a junior college transformation and a new beginning that came with no guarantee. Taylor can finally see the end of the road with the next step coming against Georgia Southern on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. at Protective Stadium.
“This is it, this is my last year, no matter what,” said Taylor, a 6-foot-3, 245-pound inside linebacker. “Just knowing it’s my last year, I do all the little stuff. I don’t play [video] games much, I don’t watch TV no more. If I’m not watching film, I’m watching football highlights of somebody else. It’s all about football now. I might turn on the TV if I go to sleep as background noise. Other than that, I’m doing something football related.”
Taylor certainly has some college football highlights. The former four-star recruit of Lanier High in Buford, Georgia, played in 11 games with five starts as a true freshman at LSU for a team that finished 9-4. He’s been part of UAB teams that played in two Conference USA championship games with one championship. He’s played in 20 games over two-plus seasons at UAB with eight starts.
In August of 2018, while preparing for what would have been his second season at LSU, it came to light that he had been arrested for his alleged part in a pawnshop burglary the previous May in his hometown. He never played for LSU again.
“Just like anything in life, you have to keep your head forward and take one step forward at a time,” said Taylor.
He ended up at Holmes Community College in Mississippi.
“It was just a lot different,” Taylor said. “Being at LSU, wherever you go, people know your name. Then, you go to JUCO, and you’re just getting out in the mud, trying to grind and get your name back out there. It definitely humbles you a lot. It just shows you different aspects of life. Tough days, for sure.”
He played the 2019 season and began searching for his new home. His recruitment was different than during high school, when he was highly sought after and chose LSU over Auburn and Oklahoma. This time, people weren’t calling. Tennessee recruited him, but it stalled because of a coaching change. East Carolina and UAB recruited him, and he had a D-2 offer.
Ultimately, he came to UAB without any guarantees. Taylor walked on to the UAB program. He had to prove himself.
“I wouldn’t necessarily say it was tough,” Taylor said. “I had the mindset that I had to come here and show the coaches what I could do. I had to get on scholarship. My mindset was to go hard every day. You are used to people kind of knowing who you are and what you’re about, to nobody knows your name. Nobody knew who I was, besides the coaches. I was even proving something to the guys I was going to be playing with. I had to show them I meant business out here on the football field.”
Within a month, he had a scholarship. Yet his first two years at UAB was sort of a one step forward, one step back process. He’s played well, contributing 61 tackles, six tackles for loss and a sack in 2020 and 2021. He’s also been hampered by nagging injuries.
“I’ve just been fighting ankle injuries and all that since I’ve been here,” Taylor said. “Really, like lower [body] injuries are the worst because you can’t run or move. Now that I’m healthy, I just feel good.”
Preparation is a big part of his improved health.
“I started eating better,” Taylor said. “I don’t eat out as much, I don’t eat processed food. I used to be big on microwave food, just something quick. Now, I might cook four or five pieces of salmon, mashed potatoes and stuff for the week. I just eat that throughout the week. It’s helped my body lose the fat and trim down, so I can play more, be more nimble and all that.”
During two games, he’s second on the team, behind Noah Wilder, with 14 tackles. Last week, in the loss to Liberty, Taylor had a career-best nine tackles.
That could be the start of his best season in college football.
“I think that Tyler Taylor is healthier than he’s ever been,” said UAB head coach Bryant Vincent. “He’s done a great job of coming in and studying extra and taking care of his body. He’s really been a great practice player and it’s showing in the game.”
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