NFL Legend Bobby Taylor Discusses Role of Character, Academics in His Football Journey
Welcome to Why We Play, a series of discussions with current players and NFL Legends about their youth football experience and why they play the game.
Track, not football, was Bobby Taylor's first sports love. After all, it was in his genes.
The son of 1972 Olympic gold medalist sprinter Robert Taylor, Bobby excelled at track all through junior high and high school.
But from Bobby's first time touching a football in fourth grade, he started to learn a lot more than the Xs and Os.
“In my community, the youth football coaches were the men in town who really stood out," Taylor said. "They were all good, good men, and they taught me about character — not just winning and losing. I learned the values of the game: being a good teammate, character, leadership."
The future Pro Bowl cornerback for the Philadelphia Eagles took those lessons to heart. Taylor was a three-sport star at Longview High School, starring at track, football, and basketball, and was selected to the Texas High School Hall of Fame.
"Too many parents now try to specialize their children," he said. "One of the things when I was growing up and what helped my game was I did other sports and that helped me develop."
Taylor said he decided to play college ball at Notre Dame because they would let him play both football and basketball. But unfortunately, an injury his first year with the Fighting Irish in the Cotton Bowl against Texas A&M curtailed his future in basketball.
"That’s one of my regrets," he said. "That I never got to play basketball in college."
Sticking with football ended up paying off for Taylor. In 1995, the Eagles selected Taylor in the second round of the NFL Draft. He ended up playing nine years with the team, winning Pro Bowl honors in 2002, and one year with the Seattle Seahawks.
After retiring in 2004, Taylor is trying to impart the same lessons that he learned as a young player to other up-and-coming football players in the Houston area.
"Everyone wants to win, of course, but the most important thing is making sure you’re being taught right and that you’re having fun," Taylor said. "When I have a parent or kid come to me and ask to work out with us or train, one of the first questions I ask them is, 'What do you play?'
"They’ll say I’m strictly a tight end, or a running back or a receiver. I tell them to keep their options open. They may get bigger or their skill set may change. What you think you position is may not be your best position going forward."
Along with mentoring young players, Taylor works on the NFL Legends Youth Advisory Committee, a group of former players that supports the development of youth and high school football initiatives.
When speaking with young players, Taylor always emphasizes the importance of academics.
"One of the things I tell the kids is that I’m more proud of what I did from an academic standpoint than what I did from an athletic standpoint," he said. "I made honor roll every year in high school. I didn’t want to be one of those guys who would have made it, if only they had the grades."
Taylor and another former NFL player, ND Kalu, run a camp called Fundamentals of Football, which they have nicknamed the Fun Camp.
"We’re teaching fundamentals, and you’re going to have fun," Taylor said. “We always provide time for the kids to sit and just talk with us.
"We have all had our journeys. Some of us may have went to a Notre Dame, some may have gone to a JUCO, some may have gotten drafted, some may have had to make it as a free agent. We give of ourselves, and we feel the kids take that and if it helps them on the field, if it helps them in the classroom, that’s what we’re trying to do."
Photo: AP/Elaine Thompson
- NFL Players and Legends
- Youth Football