ALAMO BOWL A HOMECOMING OF SORTS FOR OSU DT
Oklahoma State DT Vincent Taylor returns to the city that welcomed him after Katrina.
san antonio» Vincent Taylor was 11 when the unforgiving wrath of Hurricane Katrina swallowed the home he lived in in New Orleans.
Taylor and his family hunkered down in a hotel for a few days after the storm ravaged the city, but they soon had to find a way out.
“At the time, me, my brother, my dad and my mom, all we talked about is New York because we had heard great things about it,” said Taylor, Oklahoma State’s all-Big 12 defensive tackle.
When the Taylor family left New Orleans, Vincent departing Louisiana for the first time, they tried to avoid the closure of Interstate 10 by taking Highway 90 and heading to the northeast. They once again found their path blocked.
“We thought we were headed to New York until we stopped at a gas station,” Taylor said. “My dad asked the cashier what the next nearest big city was. The guy said San Antonio. That’s how we ended up in San Antonio.”
Eleven years later, Taylor is back in his adopted hometown this week as he prepares to lead No. 13 Oklahoma State (9-3) against No. 11 Colorado (10-3) in the Alamo Bowl on Thursday night. He’s sure he can give the CU offensive front everything it can handle.
At 6-foot-3, 310 pounds, Taylor led all Big 12 interior linemen this season with six sacks. His 12 tackles for loss are the most for any Oklahoma State interior lineman since Mike Gundy took over as head coach in 2005. He’s also blocked three point-after attempts and one field goal this year.
“We definitely need to know where he is and be prepared,” CU coach Mike MacIntyre said. “He is a disruptive guy.”
Taylor felt lost when he arrived in San Antonio back in 2005. He was often teased, a big kid with a different way of talking. He twice got kicked out of school and spent one year at an alternative school. His eighth grade year was the first time he completed a full year of school in San Antonio. It happened to coincide with the time he began playing football.
“He was trying to find himself,” said Oklahoma State safety Tre Flowers, who went to middle school with Taylor in San Antonio. “A lot of people who came over after Katrina, it was rough for them. Football really changed his life. When we had class together, he’d never talk. Now to see him laughing all the time, it’s all fun.”
Football provided a common foothold in a city and state that is crazy about the sport. It all also offered the opportunity of a promising future.
Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer first met Taylor during his sophomore year at James Madison High School. Spencer was in town to recruit a linebacker named Kris Caitlin. The Cowboys landed Caitlin, but the defensive coordinator couldn’t keep his eyes off the athletic defensive tackle who kept making plays.
As Spencer left practice one day, Taylor’s father, Victor, hollered at Spencer:
“Come back for my boy, coach.”
Spencer came back, often, and held off several other schools who jumped into the recruiting battle at the end. Taylor has been a one-man wrecking ball since, with 11 career sacks and 21K tackles for loss.
“I’m glad he’s had the recognition this year because of (the) production that he’s had,” Spencer said. “He’ll be the first one to tell you a lot of times his production comes off of other people doing their job, but he’s got the innate ability to snatch off a block and make plays with his arm.”
Football has had its own ways of helping Taylor soothe the scars Katrina wrought. Last season, Oklahoma State reached the Sugar Bowl, allowing Taylor to return to New Orleans and play in the Louisiana Superdome, a place that represented both the despair brought to the city but also the hope that came in its recovery.
Now Taylor, a junior who could potentially leave for the NFL after this season, is back in his adopted hometown, the place where he found strength through the game he loves.
“After everything I’ve been through,” Taylor said, “going through Katrina, getting off to a rough start in school when I moved to San Antonio before I finally got into football, for God to send me to New Orleans last year, where I was born and raised, after everything that happened in the Superdome, and now He’s sending me to San Antonio, the city that took me in, it’s just a blessing. I’m just letting God take the wheel and just going with it.”
Oklahoma State defensive tackle Vincent Taylor moves in to tackle Southeastern Louisiana quarterback D'Shaie Landor on Sept. 3. Taylor will play in the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio on Thursday, returning home after his family moved to the city from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Sue Ogrocki, Associated Press file