Ok­la­homa State DT Vin­cent Tay­lor re­turns to the city that wel­comed him af­ter Katrina.

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Nick Kos­mider

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

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.