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Taylor Dever anchors offensive line

Andrew Gastelum | Thursday, November 17, 2011

The free-flowing, golden mane of fifth-year offensive tackle Taylor Dever all but represents the lineman: free-spirited, laid-back and a little rugged.

“I started growing it right before the Hawaii Bowl in December of ’08 but it has been a process,” Dever said. “It is kind of my identity, from what other people have told me. They tell me that I can’t cut it because that is who I am.”

But ever since the 300-pound lineman started growing his hair, Dever has grown into a fixture on Notre Dame’s stalwart offensive line. Dever, along with his roommate senior right guard Trevor Robinson, serves as the veteran anchor at the right tackle position.

The experienced offensive line has only given up eight sacks on the year, including a five-game stretch where sophomore quarterback Tommy Rees was not sacked. The streak ended Saturday against Maryland — the Irish gave up three to the Terrapins — but lasted long enough for the Irish to take pride in it. Dever attributed the streak to the close bond the members of the offensive line share, most of whom have played together for more than three seasons.

“When things like that [five-game streak] happen against Division-I-level teams that are the best in the country, I think there is something special to say about that,” he said. “We have such a tight-knit group that jells and plays well together. We are all really close and it goes to show how well we are playing.

“Our goal every game is to keep Tommy’s jersey clean. I am part of the offensive line and it is a group effort. Being a part of that is definitely something to be proud of.”

Before the Maryland game, Rees had only been sacked five times in nine games while the offensive line paved the way for a rushing attack ranked 41st in the nation, despite running a spread offense. Irish running backs, junior Cierre Wood and senior Jonas Gray, average 5.6 and 7.1 yards per carry, respectively, a testament to the performance and work ethic of Dever and his teammates in the trenches.

Dever said his most memorable performances have both come against Michigan State in the past two seasons. Statistically, the Spartans have the eighth-best defense in the country this year.

“This year I graded out the best against Michigan State, just like last year,” Dever said. “Their defense is always a hard-nosed defense that stops the run and it is so easy to get pumped for a game like that and get the motor going.”

The 22-year-old marketing major said he has come a long way from the recruiting process he experienced as a high school senior from northern California and is happy with the decision he made.

“When you are going through the recruiting process at 17 and 18 it is definitely a cool process,” Dever said. “I got offers to most of the Pac-10 schools, but the only schools east of that region that offered me a scholarship were Miami (Fla.), Nebraska and Notre Dame.

“Growing up I always loved Notre Dame but the whole, complete package was the main reason why I came here. Meeting the guys, I just felt that I belonged. I kind of just fell in love with it. It felt like the right place. And it has gone by fast but I have made the best of the opportunity and the chances that I have gotten.”

Those chances didn’t start to materialize until 2010, after spending three years backing up four-year starter Sam Young, now with the Buffalo Bills. But Dever said the time he spent behind Young — whom Dever considers his mentor — helped to develop him into the player he is today. In turn, he now serves as mentor to the younger Irish lineman, just as Young was to him.

“I started off being in the backup role and a lot of guys go through that and when my time came I made the best of the opportunities that I had,” Dever said. “Now I find myself in the position that I am in now and I am trying to do everything that I can to help other guys learn and become better football players.

“From Sam I learned that football is a game where you have to have a really short memory. You just have got to learn that not every play is going to go your way and you just have to adapt and move on.  I still talk to him to this day. He is in Buffalo fighting for a chance and I am pulling for him.”

Dever said he plans to follow in the path of his mentor by entering the NFL Draft come April, since the fifth-year business student is officially finished with school at the end of the semester.

“Well I am going to try the whole training thing with the combine and the [NFL] Draft and see where that takes me,” he said. “If it doesn’t work, I’ll still have my Notre Dame degree. I think right now I would want to try to work somewhere for a little bit and go back to school.”

But before he takes the next step, Dever still has one more game to play on the hallowed grounds of Notre Dame Stadium.

“To put on the [Notre Dame] helmet for the last time will be cool, fun, sad and everything all in one,” Dever said. “I mean that is just part of it. There is always going to be a beginning and an end to things in life and that is what I’ll keep in mind.”

And just as there was a beginning to the golden flow back at the Hawaii Bowl in 2008, there will soon be an end, Dever said, even if there is a Facebook page for them.

“One of my high school buddies plays at Hawaii and he made [Taylor Dever’s Luscious Locks] as a joke and it actually blew up,” he said. “I have had it for so long that I love it but I am also sick of it. With my career at Notre Dame coming to an end it might be time for the hair to go.”

It won’t be hard to find Dever this weekend. Just look for the golden mane beneath the golden helmet.