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Taylor continues to find success at each stop

Matthew DeFranks | Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Editor’s note: This is the fourth of a new Observer feature. The “Waking the Echoes” series intends to inform fans about some former players and will feature weekly stories profiling them and their lives since Notre Dame.

Before Bobby Taylor was an All-American cornerback, before he was a second-round draft pick, before he was a Pro Bowler, he was a safety. But one day changed all that.

During a scrimmage, former Irish coach Lou Holtz moved Taylor to cornerback to fill a need in the secondary and Taylor wowed the coaches with two interceptions.

“At first, I really didn’t like playing cornerback,” Taylor said in a phone interview with The Observer. “Mentally, it was something that I had to get adjusted to because there’s a different mentality. It was something I had the God-given talents to do but it took a little time mentally for me to embrace it.

“Everything you’re doing on the perimeter, you can’t hide. If you’re out there playing cornerback and a guy is taking you to school on a particular day, you can’t hide.”

Taylor, recruited out of Longview, Texas, was a safety and originally favored nearby Texas over Notre Dame in the recruiting process. When the Longhorn fired coach David McWilliams, however, the Irish had a shot. Taylor had one request, though.

“I made a point to tell every recruiting coordinator that I’m not even going to consider any of these schools if the head coach doesn’t come visit me,” Taylor said. “There were a couple of guys I knew before that were going through the recruiting process and they never got a chance to even speak to some of the head coaches.”

When Holtz visited the decorated senior at his high school, Taylor said it was “like a holiday. The school shut down to a certain degree.”

Taylor committed to the Irish and capitalized on his early playing time at Notre Dame. During his freshman year in 1992, he registered 28 tackles while also breaking up nine passes.

Taylor starred on the 1993 defense that helped the Irish begin the year 10-0. In his final season with Notre Dame, he garnered All-American honors despite Notre Dame stumbling to 6-5-1 record following a preseason No. 2 ranking.

“It was tough. Every year, we had great expectations,” Taylor said. “To have a disappointing season like that, that was awful because all of the Notre Dame teams that I could remember, they didn’t do that bad.”

Taylor – who finished his Irish career with five interceptions – said he did not aim to become an All-American or be nominated for the Thorpe Award, annually given to the nation’s best defensive back.

“I never really focused on being an All-American. I just wanted to contribute to my team’s success,” he said. “It wasn’t about All-American honor or being up for the Thorpe, it was always about team, team, team. That’s something we’ve always stressed … I would give that back to have some more victories.”

After his junior year, Taylor entered the 1995 NFL Draft and said the process – the combine, the tests and the interviews – were as exhausting as draft day itself.

“That was probably one of the longest days of my life,” Taylor said. “You’re just hoping and wishing that one team calls your name.”

With the 50th selection in the draft, the Eagles picked Taylor.
As a “country boy” that attended college in northern Indiana, Taylor said he initially had a lot to adjust to in Philadelphia.

“It was a culture shock at first because of how the media and talk radio and just how the fans are just totally into everything you’re doing as an athlete, on the field and off the field,” Taylor said. “You’re constantly scrutinized.”

Taylor, along with Brian Dawkins and Troy Vincent, helped form one of the best defensive backfields in the NFL. The dominating secondary led the Eagles to three consecutive NFC title games in the early 2000s. Philadelphia, however, failed to reach the Super Bowl even once.

“It definitely was tough at the time but I would have rather been in that position than not been in that position at all. We learned a lot from it,” Taylor said. “I wish we would have been able to make a few more plays and make it to the Super Bowl.”

Since he retired from football, Taylor has kept busy. He has a financial services company with Vincent that recently celebrated its 10th anniversary and has also done football camps with former Eagle N.D. Kalu.

In 2010, six years since he played in the NFL, rumors began to spread about a possible comeback for Taylor. He said it was all a misunderstanding.

“I was just having a conversation with someone and think it just kind of went along the lines of ‘Do you think you can still play?’ and I said ‘I think I probably still can play, especially if I’m brought on to someone’s team as a specialist, a third-down guy or a nickel back,” he said. “Next thing I know, I get so many different people calling me saying ‘You trying to make a comeback?'”

Taylor also has his own clothing store, End Zone Fashions, and will be launching his own clothing line within the next year. VZYCO, which Taylor said stands for Vicious Zone You Can’t Obtain, will be a streetwear line that features an aggressive, cutting edge style.

“I’ve always had that passion of wanting my own so this is my perfect opportunity to do so and we’ve created some good buzz locally,” Taylor said. “A lot of the guys I played with will probably be some of the first endorsers of our products. I’ve always had that fashion creativity growing up as a young man.”

Taylor said the company will begin with T-shirts and hats before transitioning to denims, outerwear, watches, bracelets and shoes. Taylor, along with one other person, design the clothing themselves. While becoming a globally recognized brand like FUBU is not the main goal for Taylor, he said VZYCO has potential to be popular.

“I have seen a lot of small brands that I’ve sold in my store that started slow and then gained momentum,” Taylor said. “They had the right people wearing them. They were putting out quality products and then boom, they blew up.”

Taylor, 38, lives in Houston and has one son, Bobby.

Contact Matthew DeFranks at mdefrank@nd.edu