Just to get you in the mood of this article, check out this video. It's a touchdown run by Lincoln Southeast running back and future walk-on at Nebraska, Zach Taylor. It's one of those runs that you simply have to watch, because it's kind of hard to explain.
gives you a slight window into just how Taylor approaches the game. But what
you don’t see on that particular run are holes.
Two of them,
at the bottom portion of his back, incurred earlier in that game which was the
third contest of the season.
“I think it
was around the third quarter, and it was a run left and one of the defensive
ends put his facemask right into my back, and I guess I broke two bones,”
Taylor said. “I went to the sidelines to have my trainer look at it, and I had
two big gashes in my back.
“I still have
scars today from that.”
what the percentage is of players who would have hung it up right there. But
that stellar run where he broke tackles from seemingly all but two of the
players for Papillion La Vista South, came after he had taken that shot from
point of that injury Taylor battled it, actually had to miss a game, but came
back after the doctors told him that he was good to go. “They said that it wasn’t
anything serious. Those bones weren’t in a real vital area, so once the pain
was gone I could go back to playing,” Taylor said.
He did that,
helping his team to a 9-2 record, the first winning record in five years for Southeast. Along
the way they defeated Millard West, the previous season’s state champ as well
as Lincoln Southwest, the school which may actually get a lot of the blame for
the situation Lincoln Southeast found itself in prior to this last year.
tough here for awhile. I know that when the new schools opened up like
Southwest, we just didn’t have the numbers anymore. Coach (John) Larsen used to talk
about it all the time,” Taylor said. “He used to talk about how our numbers are
growing, we are getting better and this last year it just kind of showed.”
showed for Taylor who notched over 1,200 yards on the ground, scoring 10
touchdowns, which he added to an average of almost 40 yards per kickoff return,
one going back over 90 yards for a score. And on defense Taylor was picked
first-team all state by the Omaha World Herald.
It was a
year where Taylor said things really came together, but they did so even before
the season began. “We just had more guys committed to winning. We had a couple
of new coaches, and I know one of them used to have us in the weight room early
in the morning over the Summer,” he said. “I think our senior class just wanted
it more than maybe other classes before us. We just wanted to win and we wanted
our last year to be something special.”
Taylor, though, whether it’s from football, rugby or ice hockey, three sports
he’s played much of his high school life, there is an obvious amount of
toughness you are going to get from any
one of them, but especially from all three. Along with the balance he
says he got from playing ice hockey as much as he has, it’s equated to someone
who thinks about only one thing once the ball touches his hands.
contact. That’s big for me. I don’t mean to brag, but I don’t think I have ever
been taken down by the first guy to get his hands on me. Not much anyway,” he
said. “And it’s kind of odd, because most people would expect that I run with
my pads down. But from rugby you run a little more upright. But you still are
going to get hit.”
It’s a style
that he figures is part physical-part finesse…with a little more physical
One has to
remember, though, that Taylor was once recorded running a 4.5 in the 40. That’s not bad,
not bad at all.
So, when he
tried to outrun the other guy, more often than not he succeeded. But it doesn’t
get away from what he’d rather do, given the choice. “Oh, I’d probably run them
over if I had the chance. But if I am going to get more yards going around
them, I’ll do that too,” he said.
It was a big
year for him and his team. He had proven to be a major impact player on a team
which did something that the LSE of old used to do all the time when names like
Ruud graced their field. And it was big for him when Nebraska came to him and
asked him to walk on.
No, it wasn’t
a written offer. But Taylor had few reservations about what he wanted to do, even
though he did have an offer from Concordia, a member institution of NAIA.
He even sort
of remembers the conversation he was having with his parents when the walk on
offer was extended.
“I was kind
of listening. I mean, I care what my parents have to say and they had the final
word. But my mind was basically made up,” Taylor said. “I wasn’t really paying
attention to what they were saying. I knew what I wanted to do.”
It’s not necessarily
wanting that chance to do something special, Taylor stated. He said it was
about wondering if something special would have happened there if he had gone
someplace else. “You don’t want to wonder what could have happened. I wasn't going
to deal with that. I was going to go in there and just work by butt off and
whatever happens, happens,” he said.
positioned at running back, which when you think about it you wonder if he
might have chose something else. Maybe he could play linebacker. Maybe even
safety. Or maybe fullback?
check that on fullback.
who does actually like having the ball in his hands, that position wasn’t an
option. “I don’t remember the last time a fullback carried the ball for them.
Actually, how much do they actually play,” he said.
Nope, it was
running back, and he would be going through the interesting mental challenge of
now competing against players who just a year ago he supported. “Yeah, that
will be strange. I mean, guys like Helu Jr. and Burkhead, I was just in the
stands cheering those guys on last year. And now I am going to be suited up
along side them. That will be kind of strange,” he said.
strangeness aside, Taylor said he has much respect for those he’ll be playing
alongside. But he has no fear. “I compete. That’s what I do. That’s what I am
going to do when I get there,” he said. “Just because I have seen these guys do
amazing things, it’s not like I think I can’t even hang with them.
have any fear of anyone. I am just going to work like crazy and see what
make him perfect for those short yardage situations, especially after you have
seen him run. Taylor doesn’t mind getting a little dirty inside. Point of fact,
he said fine, that’s great, give him the ball – he’ll get you those one or two
yards if it kills him.
he’s there to do.
they need those two yards and I am the one who can get them those consistently,
that’s great. I just want to help the team,” he said. “Besides, I don’t mind
putting my head down and hammering at people. I am kind of used to it.”
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