|PHOTOS: SAFETY COOPER TAYLOR|
University of Richmond
Georgia (Tech) Institute of Technology Yellow Jackets
Much like Houston cornerback D.J. Hayden, Taylor has become the "feel good" story of the 2013 NFL Draft. Both overcame ailments that were not only career-threatening, but also threatened their quality of life.
Hayden missed Houston's final three games of the 2012 season after a violent collision in practice on November 6th caused the field cornerback to suffer a tear of the inferior vena cava in the heart. He was hospitalized for six days and granted a medical exemption (sternum) at the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine. He made a triumphant return with a very impressive performance during the Cougars' March Pro Day and is expected to be drafted in the early rounds.
Taylor also experienced heart issues, only much more serious. While starting at free safety for the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in 2009, he was having a banner campaign through three games, but was then diagnosed with Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome, which is characterized by abnormal electrical pathways in the heart. The illness was discovered when trainers saw that he had an extremely high heartbeat in the game vs. Miami on September 17th.
Taylor underwent a corrective procedure to correct the condition that can cause the electrical charges between the heart's chambers to become out of sync. The former Tech safety's surgery was performed in November to restore normal rhythms in his heart, according to medicinenet.com. He was granted a medical redshirt and made a limited return to the gridiron in 2010.
Taylor's father, former Georgia Tech quarterback Jim Bob Taylor, said the family endured "a scary day" at Atlanta's Piedmont Hospital when the heart procedure, expected to last about three hours, instead lasted most of the day. The surgeons accessed the heart pathways through Taylor's groin in the outpatient procedure.
"They kept saying 'We've got to go back in,"' said Jim Bob Taylor. "I thought gosh, what else are they going to find? We thought maybe it would be no problem and he'd be back in practice in maybe a week. With it being that long, he just lost a ton of weight. It was a long process."
Taylor, who had been about 205 pounds for the start of the 2009 season, lost about 20 pounds, back down to about 185. He returned for spring practice and suddenly found it easier to add weight. The defensive back said his high metabolism has always made it difficult for him to gain weight. He weighed only about 185 pounds as a freshman in 2008 and was up to 220 as he handled the starting job at safety for the first three games of that sophomore season.
"I tell him it's probably a blessing that it happened because it gave him a year to mature," said Jim Bob Taylor, who started in the 1982 season. "He needed to get bigger and lo and behold that year off helped him. He's about 20 pounds bigger than he's ever been." Cooper Taylor said he feels even faster than two years ago, when he was Georgia Tech's fastest player.
Taylor said he gained confidence along with more muscle while recovering from the surgical procedure. He ran the 40-yard dash in about 4.3 seconds as a 185-pound freshman at Georgia Tech, the team's fastest time, and says he feels even faster now.
On March 19th, 2013, Taylor was measured at 228 pounds for scouts in attendance for the Spiders' Pro Day. He exploded out of the blocks and was timed at 4.49 seconds in the 40-yard dash.
Taylor was also clocked at 1.60 seconds in the 10-yard dash. He added a 4.29-second timing in the 20-yard short shuttle and performed the three-cone drill in 6.96 seconds. In other agility tests, he lifted 225 pounds 23 times during the bench press drill. He added a 36 ½-inch vertical jump and 10-foot, 7-inch broad jump.
Those numbers further cemented his draft status, which had been on the rise ever since the scouts' consensus was that the Spider safety was the best performer throughout practices leading up to the 2013 East-West Shrine Game. With 231 tackles in 38 collegiate games during his career, along with seven interceptions and fourteen pass deflections, he has drawn lots of attention for teams looking for a strong safety with range.
Other NFL organizations like Dallas and Carolina are also considering him as a viable Cover-2 outside linebacker candidate, as both teams feel he might be a nice fit for their aggressive defensive schemes. "That's what I like to do, just chase the ball," Taylor said. "As a defense that's what coach instills, to compete on every play and chase the ball until the whistle is blown. That's my mentality, just flying around and playing fast and physical football."
Taylor was a two-time all-state and all-county selection at Marist School, where the Atlanta native earned three varsity letters in football. He played a variety of positions on the prep level, including wide receiver, free safety, running back and quarterback.
The versatile athlete led his team to the state championship game and a regional championship in 2006, as he broke the school single-season interception record that year.
Taylor was ranked by Super Prep as the state of Georgia's 61st-best overall prospect and rated the 78th-best safety in the nation by Scout.com.
Taylor decided to remain in-state when he accepted a scholarship offer to attend Georgia Tech in 2008. He was also heavily pursued by Mississippi State, Virginia and Duke. In his first varsity season, he earned Freshman All-American honorable mention and was a second-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference choice, despite starting just three of the thirteen games he played in.
Even with limited action with the first unit, he finished second on the team with 69 tackles (45 solos), as Taylor caused two fumbles, picked off a pass and deflected two others. He took over free safety duties as a sophomore, recording fourteen tackles with a pass theft during the Yellow Jackets' first two games, but was taken out of the Miami clash after he experienced a very rapid heartbeat. He would be sidelined the rest of the year to fully recover from surgery.
Taylor was excited to return to the gridiron in 2010, but he missed about a week of fall camp with a sprained knee. "Once I made it through spring I was like okay, I've got that behind me," the safety said. "When I hurt my knee I was like 'Uh oh, I don't want to be hurt again."
Taylor didn't want to miss practice time. If he did, he felt he would fall behind Jarrard Tarrant, Mario Edwards and Isaiah Johnson in the competition for two starting spots at safety. "You could tell he was hungry to get back on the field," said senior linebacker Brad Jefferson. "He's been doing extra work to get his injury better. You saw a sense of urgency there."
The red-shirt sophomore would start the season opener vs. South Carolina State, but did not come out of the locker room after halftime and the coaching staff mysteriously kept him out of action for the next two contests for what they would only describe as an "undisclosed injury."
Head coach Paul Johnson would later call the "injury" as heat-related symptoms. Taylor said the heat-related illness wasn't caused by his heart condition, but played sparingly the rest of the season, appearing in just two more games. He finished with five tackles and chose to transfer to the University of Richmond after the seasons, for his final two years of eligibility.
"Cooper will be a great addition to the University of Richmond both athletically and academically," Richmond coach Latrell Scott said in a statement at the time Taylor enrolled at the university in 2011. "He is a tremendous football player and we're excited to welcome him to the family."
Taylor appeared in the first eight games on Richmond's 2011 schedule before the injury bug again sidelined him for the final three contests. The starting safety, now measuring 220 pounds had posted 63 tackles with a forced fumble, three pass deflections and a 44-yard interception return.
Injuries continued to plague him in 2012. In early June, Taylor was wrapping up a bench-press set when the right side of his upper body collapsed. "It felt like somebody ripped a phone book in my chest," the University of Richmond's senior safety said. UR's medical team initially suspected a torn pectoral muscle.
Football translation: out for six months. "A major concern. With a torn pec, very seldom is there a good outcome," said first-year Spiders coach Danny Rocco. "I would have been lucky to get back for the William and Mary game (on November 17th), or if we made the playoffs," Taylor said. "Needless to say, I was a little dejected at that point."
Additional examination and surgery revealed that the problem wasn't nearly that severe. Taylor damaged areas around the pectoral muscle. He missed about six weeks of summer activity. "It was better than Christmas," Taylor said of his reaction to the modified medical assessment. "Recovery was great. I'm 100 percent. I got back close to my (bench-press) max (in late July). I'm not going to push it, just because. But I'm good to go. I got very lucky with this."
Without the 6-foot-5 230-pounder, the Spiders would have been missing a captain and their defense's key and mobile playmaker. Taylor is more a hybrid rover than a safety. He sometimes is situated on the line of scrimmage, sometimes at a linebacker's depth and sometimes 10 yards off the ball.
"Cooper has the physical numbers to maybe be a linebacker, to play near the line of scrimmage, to rush the passer," Rocco said. "But he also has the range and speed and ball skills to play in the back end. The more he's fluid and moving around, the more he can give the offense different things to worry about and deal with."
Taylor returned for 2012 fall practice, but in August, he suffered a broken bone in his right hand and sat out the season opener vs. Virginia. He returned the next week and would subsequently play a few games with a padded cast. After recovering from that injury, he broke his left hand on November 3rd vs. Rhode Island, and played the final two contests wearing another padded cast.
The senior earned All-American and All-Colonial Athletic Association honors as a senior. He finished third on the team with 78 tackles, making five stops behind the line of scrimmage, as he caused three fumbles. Three of his four pressures caused interceptions. Despite his hand problems which turned several sure-fire pass thefts into break-ups instead, he had four interceptions and nine deflections in ten games.
Taylor also saw brief action on offense as a wildcat back during his final season. "I was more than willing. It's been a lot of fun to do," said Taylor. With a broken left hand, he relinquished the wildcat role vs. Delaware. On defense, he couldn't hold three passes he stepped in front of, apparently because of the cast on his hand. He finished that game with eight tackles, including a sack, was credited with a quarterback hurry, forced a fumble, made the game-ending interception in the end zone, and broke up two passes in UR's
Invited to play in the 2013 East-West Game, Taylor was one of the few standouts through-out the week-long practices. CBS Sports reported that with his impressive size for his position, it was very rare to see a 230-pound 6:04 safety roam the back half of the field like the Richmond Spider displayed.
His athleticism was also better than expected, flowing well to the action and breaking down on the move. He showed good footwork in drills and drew some praise from the coaching staff for his closing quickness on plays in front of him. That week also started to create a great bit of buzz among the scouts and NFL representatives in attendance for the game and scrimmages.
The East-West coaching staff routinely praised the former Spider for his decisiveness and burst, arriving to the play quickly and ready to blow up the ball carrier. While there were times when he played too upright during full contact drills, he more than compensated with his aggression and was called the most physical player in practice.
All scouts in attendance stated that it was Taylor who stood out as the most impressive defender on the East squad during practices. With his size and strength, he is an enforcer vs. the run, but he also showed the range and athleticism to be effective in coverage as well as the football intelligence to digest a lot of coaching all at once. He routinely drew praise from the coaching staff during drills and often made the calls to get his teammates in proper position.
Taylor started all eighteen games he played in at the University of Richmond, recording 141 tackles (65 solos) with 1.5 sacks for minus 14 yards, 6.5 stops for losses of 32 yards and five quarterback pressures…Caused four fumbles, deflected twelve passes and had five interceptions for 99 yards in returns, including one touchdown…Also saw brief action on offense, generating six yards on five carries…Taylor started seven of the twenty games he played in at Georgia Tech, where he collected 90 tackles (54 solos) with a pressure, two forced fumbles, two interceptions for 28 yards in returns, also deflecting a pair of other tosses…For his entire career, Taylor started 25-of-38 games, generating 231 tackles (119 solos), 1.5 sacks, 6.5 tackles-for-loss, six pressures, six forced fumbles, fourteen pass break-ups and 127 yards gained on seven interceptions.
Taylor earned All-American first-team honors from The NFL Draft Report, Associated Press, Walter Camp and Sports Network…The All-Colonial Athletic Association first-team choice was also selected The Touchdown Club of Richmond Division I National Defensive Back of the Year...Added first-team Capital One Academic All-American recognition…On the season, Taylor started each of the team's final ten games, as the safety finished third on the squad with a career-high 78 tackles (45 solos) that included 1.5 sacks for minus 14 yards, five stops for losses of 29 yards and four quarterback pressures…Caused four fumbles, deflected twelve passes and intercepted five others for 99 yards in returns, including one touchdown…In brief action on offense, he carried five times for 6 yards…
The team captain was named CAA Defensive Player of the Week after totaling a team-high 13 tackles in a shutout win over Rhode Island, as he also had 0.5 sacks, two QB hurries and a forced fumble vs. the Rams...Posted a game-high 12 tackles, seven solo, vs. Old Dominion...Totaled six tackles, including five solo, an interception for an 8-yard runback and three pass breakups in a win at Georgia State…Selected CAA Defensive Player of the Week after he made eight tackles, a sack, an interception, a forced fumble, two pass break-ups and a quarterback hurry vs. Delaware...Was in on eight tackles, including 1.5 for loss, and a quarterback hurry vs. James Madison...Delivered seven tackles, one tackle for loss and two pass break-ups in the Capital Cup win at William & Mary...Totaled five tackles, three solo, and had two interceptions, returning one 35 yards for a touchdown in the Virginia Military Institute clash…Posted six tackles at New Hampshire and made four tackles, including one for loss, and a pass break-up vs. Gardner-Webb.
Taylor received CAA Football Academic All-Conference Team honors...Started the team's first eight games, recording 63 tackles (20 solos) with 1.5 stops-for-loss, a forced fumble, a 44-yard interception return, a QB pressure and three pass deflections…Registered 14 hits, including five solo and 1.0 for a loss of two yards, a forced fumble, a QB hurry, and a pass break-up in a victory at Duke...Intercepted a pass for 44 yards to go with seven tackles and a pass break-up vs. Maine...Had 14 tackles at James Madison and totaled nine tackles with a stop-for-loss and a pass deflection vs. New Hampshire…Missed the team's final three games after he was injured vs. Massachusetts.
Taylor appeared in just four games, starting the season-opener vs. South Carolina State, but was left in the locker room at halftime due to heat-related issues, missing the next two contests for Georgia Tech (wore jersey #22) before returning for limited action vs. North Carolina State, Wake Forest and Virginia…Finished with five tackles, posting four of those hits vs. South Carolina State.
Taylor took over free safety duties at Georgia Tech, starting the first three games before he was diagnosed with Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome, which caused him to miss the rest of the season...Debuted a brand-new Mohawk haircut for the season opener…Posted sixteen tackles (7 solos), making six stops vs. Jacksonville State and eight more with an interception vs. Clemson…Was diagnosed after an extremely high heartbeat in the Miami game and later underwent heart surgery in November.
Taylor earned All-Atlantic Coast Conference second-team honors from Rivals.com…Was named Freshman All-American honorable mention by College Football News…Started at free safety for Georgia Tech in the Florida State and Georgia contests, and also started at nickel back vs. Miami, appearing in all thirteen games…Finished second on the team with 69 tackles (45 solos), as he also posted a QB pressure, caused two fumbles, deflected a pair of passes and intercepted another for a 28-yard return…Made four solo tackles in the Chick-fil-A Bowl vs. Louisiana State…Was Tech's leading-tackler (nine) in the win at 13th-ranked Georgia and posted three solo tackles and a pass break-up vs. Miami...Earned National Freshman of the Week honors by Rivals.com after his performance vs. Florida State. With FSU driving for the go-ahead touchdown and less than one minute remaining, Taylor forced a Seminole fumble near the goal line, securing Tech's 31-28 win. He also had his first career interception and returned it 28 yards vs. the Seminoles, along with pacing the team with 10 tackles, including eight solos…Tied for a team-high with 11 tackles (8 solos), plus one pass break-up vs. Virginia...Played the majority of the game at Virginia Tech and recorded nine tackles...Played close to 50 snaps at Boston College and was in on six tackles, including three solos vs. the Eagles...Had an impressive career debut vs. Jacksonville State, as he registered three tackles, including two solo tackles, and forced a fumble vs. the Gamecocks.
2009 Season…Taylor was diagnosed with an extremely high heart rate during the September 17th game at Miami and eventually missed the remainder of the season after he underwent a surgical procedure in November due to Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome.
2010 Season…Started the season opener vs. South Carolina State, but was left in the locker room at halftime with a heat related illness. The coaches decided to not play him the next two weeks vs. Kansas and North Carolina. After playing briefly in the next three games, he was shut down for the rest of the schedule.
2011 Season…Missed part of fall camp with a knee injury and later re-aggravated it vs. Massachusetts, sitting out Richmond's final three contests.
2012 Season…In early June, Taylor was wrapping up a bench-press set when the right side of his upper body collapsed. "It felt like somebody ripped a phone book in my chest," the University of Richmond's senior safety said. UR's medical team initially suspected a torn pectoral muscle. Additional examination and surgery revealed that the problem wasn't nearly that severe. Taylor damaged areas around the pectoral muscle. He missed about six weeks of summer activity…In August camp, he suffered a broken bone in his right hand and sat out the season opener vs. Virginia. He returned the next week and would subsequently play a few games with a padded cast. After recovering from that injury, he broke his left hand on November 3rd vs. Rhode Island, and played the final two contests wearing another padded cast.
Taylor attended Marist (Atlanta, Ga.) School, where he was a two-time all-state and all-county selection…Earned three varsity letters in football…Played a variety of positions on the prep level, including wide receiver, free safety, running back and quarterback…Led his team to the state championship game and a regional championship in 2006, as he broke the school single-season interception record that year…Ranked by Super Prep as the state of Georgia's 61st-best overall prospect and rated the 78th-best safety in the nation by Scout.com.
Business Administration and Management major, earning academic honors with a 3.63 grade point average…Son of former Georgia Tech quarterback Jim Bob Taylor, who went on to play for the Baltimore Colts in 1983 after being selected in the eleventh round…Born
Cooper Austin Taylor on 4/14/90 in Atlanta, Georgia.