Taylor twins of SHSU discuss past, future football careers
Published: Wednesday, January 23, 2013
Updated: Sunday, January 27, 2013 17:01
Growing up together on the gridiron since childhood, two brothers will leave a legacy of strength as they walk across the stage in the graduation summer as football champions.
Darnell and Darius Taylor, known as “the Taylor Twins,” became the faces of Sam Houston State since fall of 2009 as two-time All Americans and making consecutive trips to the FCS Division I National Championship in Frisco, Texas in 2012 and 2013.
Their relationship as teammates started in elementary school.
“Playing from first grade all the way up to now, it’s something a lot of people don’t get to do with their best friends let alone their brother,” Darius said.
“We’ve always played on the same team,” Darnell said. “It’s just something we’ve been fortunate enough to do.”
During their years at Mesquite High School, Darnell transitioned to safety while Darius gained weight and speed at middle linebacker. The two integrated their relationship to evolve as a defensive duo with a mean reputation for stopping the run game; a feature originating from pee-wee football.
“It dates back to our pee-wee days,” Darnell said. “That’s what me and him were known for. Being able to run from sideline to sideline and being able to make plays.”
As a junior at Mesquite, Darius led the Skeeters with 132 tackles in just 10 games.
Darnell and Darius moved to Huntsville in 2009 to play as true freshmen on a 5-6 Bearkat squad. When coach Willie Fritz took hold of the reigns in 2010, the Taylor twins helped ignite the winning streak succeeding the following three years.
Darnell, a kinesiology major, received honorable mention as an All-Conference Safety and led the team with 64 tackles in 2010. Darius recorded 83 tackles and intercepted two passes which landed honorable mention All-Southland Conference in 2011.
Together, they’ve totaled 366 tackles during careers at SHSU.
In January, Darnell’s NFL aspirations were put on hold as he suffered a torn ACL and meniscus in his left leg during the 2013 FCS Division I Championship game against North Dakota State.
Darius was first on the field to aid his ailing brother.
“I just tried to go to him as soon as possible and I asked him ‘are you alright’ and he was like ‘no, I’m not going to be able to play the rest of the game’,” Darius said. “I knew right then it was a serious injury.”
Hopelessness and helplessness absorbed the senior safety as he watched his team struggle against a strong rushing offensive from the sideline.
“I felt hopeless. I felt like I couldn’t help,” Darnell said. “I knew I couldn’t help my team. That’s the worst feeling in the world.”
Darnell described the play as a routine coverage as his knee buckled while he planted for the tackle.
“It was a pass play, and I knew that, and I was guarding a guy and he broke on a five yard out route and I tried to plant and I just felt my knee just shift out of place,” Darius explained. “I knew then I was hurt. I was done for the game.”
As for his future competing in the next level, Darnell is unsure whether he’ll enter the NFL draft once his knee completely heals.
“I actually talked to coach Fritz a couple days before my surgery and I told him, ‘ I think I’m done,’ he told me to wait and told me to see how I feel in four to five months,” Darnell said. “Right now I’m just trying to rehab and get back strong.”
After rehabilitation, Darnell is eager to move back to Mesquite and become a fire fighter.
“When I first came to Sam I wanted to be a coach but then you see how long they work every day,” Darnell said. “I didn’t know if I could do that. So I just kind of switched, I don’t know how that came up to be a fireman but it’s something I feel like I could do.”
Currently Darius is training with strength and conditioning coach Kyle Speer and seven other teammates for a pro day in March where he’ll showcase his speed and strength at middle linebacker for interested NFL teams.
“My plan now is to continue training,” Darius said. “I’m going to prepare for that shot and once that opportunity comes I’m going to do my best. All I ask for is a shot.”
As a health major with a minor in criminal justice, Darius aspires to be a state trooper or firefighter if a career in the NFL doesn’t surface.
“I can’t see myself being behind a desk,” Darius said. “My original plan was to be a game warden, I love being outdoors, especially the same thing with the law enforcement side but I see that you have to have law enforcement experience or military experience [as a game warden], which I didn’t have.”
With graduation in the summer, Darnell and Darius leave behind a legacy that will brace the future of Bearkat football.
“Keep doing what they’re doing,” Darnell said. “Coach Fritz got a plan [and] his plan has worked.”