Turning the corner

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Concordia College wide receiver makes strides on, off field

By George L. Jones

The Selma Times-Journal

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It’s been hard to find many positives in Concordia’s football season.

Off to a 1-5 start in the toughest schedule the Hornets have ever played, they are trying to win back their identity as much as they’re trying to win games.

If it’s easier for Eric “Shampoo” Taylor to look on the bright side, it’s because he found light during his own personal dark period.

“There were so many things that went on this summer, just problems I went through,” Taylor said. “I know God has blessed me, and I know he touched my life. I just worked hard and matured. I feel fortunate to be playing because I know my life could have gone the other way.”

Just that Taylor is on the field is one testament to his turnaround. He faced academic ineligibility this season before pulling his grades up and then finding a mistake on his transcript.

The junior receiver from Montgomery always been an explosive playmaker, but fumbles were a big problem for him last season.

Now that both of those problems are under control, Taylor provides something the Hornets desperately need.

“He’s a threat, he really is,” offensive coordinator Curtis Wimberly said. “I see teams scheming trying to take him away. He helps us out because he’s so versatile – he can line up anywhere. Basically, we have a Reggie Bush effect.

He’s a game changer, that’s all I can say. We might not seem to be having a good season, but he’s the one bright spot every week.”

Taylor accounted for the only touchdown Concordia had last weekend against Tuskegee and nearly took a kickoff all the way back. Then the Tigers stopped kicking the ball his way.

That’s a familiar story for Taylor, who is averaging almost 25 yards on punt returns and nearly 30 on kickoff returns.

“That’s my love right there, the return game,” Taylor said. “My quarterback told me if I can get the ball to the 50, he’ll get us a touchdown. So that’s my goal on every kickoff. I’m 5-foot-9, so I know if I’ve got any shot at the NFL, it’s going to be there. One scout told me if I average 15 yards on punts and 25 yards on kickoffs, I’d get noticed. So that’s my goal every time.”

In improving himself and his game, Taylor is having a positive effect on the entire team.

The one moment that made Taylor’s transition from a “could-be” player to a “will-be” player official happened earlier this year.

“We were about to dismiss practice, and Eric asked if he could say something,” coach Shepherd Skanes said. “I asked him what, and he said he wanted to say a prayer. There wasn’t a dry eye around. He gave God the glory for everything in life. He summed up everybody’s feelings about where they came from. A lot of guys had obstacles to get here to Concordia College.

“We’ve told the guys if we want to get this thing turned around we all have to sacrifice. We have to do something we’ve never done before to get something we’ve never gotten before.”

But still the question, why the nickname shampoo?

“The first season three years ago, they held open tryouts and there were 300 guys out here,” Taylor said. “I knew I had to do something to stand out, so I had my hair all wild and combed out. It wasn’t dirty or anything, but the coaches started calling me shampoo, and it stuck.”