BY RICKY POLLITT
Less than four percent of college athletes end up making it to the pros, and less than a percent make it from Division III schools.
It’s a hard, near impossible goal to achieve, but one athlete who believes he has what it takes to be in that less than one percent is Sea Gulls wide receiver Isaiah Taylor.
Despite the odds, Taylor has his eyes set on the ultimate prize in football – the NFL.
Coming off a career year where he recorded over 700 receiving yards and seven touchdowns, Taylor believes the success he’s endured over his college career and his hard work mentality are good enough to give him a shot with an NFL team.
“Always in the back of my mind I’ve had this thought that I’m going to go to the NFL,” Taylor said. “I wanted to pray about the decision and see if God wanted me to pursue this, and he gave me the okay. I’m so humbled by it, and what happens, happens.”
Since joining the maroon and gold in 2012, Taylor has been the Sea Gulls’ top receiving threat, with the exception of 2014 where Taylor took the year off to spend time with his sister after she developed a respiratory virus.
With the support from his coaches, teammates, friends and family, Taylor knows his skills will catch the eye of scouts and coaches, but feels his mentality and faith are what NFL teams are looking for in potential players.
Taylor participated in a regional combine, set up by the NFL on March 13 in New Orleans and will hold his pro-day on March 29 in Baltimore. Both will give Taylor the chance to meet one-on-one with scouts and representatives and show them first-hand what he can do on the field.
“They do about seven different regional combines around the country, and it’s basically all those guys who didn’t get invited to the big televised national combine,” Taylor said. “It’s the same format, NFL scouts are there, and it’s another opportunity for an underdog type of guy.”
Unlike other SU players who have tried to make the jump to the pros in the past, Taylor has the advantage of having a former Sea Gull already among the 32 NFL coaches.
Atlanta Falcons’ head coach Dan Quinn, a graduate of Salisbury, will be entering his second year with the Falcons, and is in need of a receiver after the team cut 11-year veteran Roddy White.
“Because he played here and he knows our coaches, I think he’ll trust what our coaches tell him, and once he takes a look at me I think I’ll be able to get my opportunity,” Taylor said.
Despite the advantage that may come with having an alumni coach in the NFL, Taylor knows it is his skill and talent coaches want to see, something he has been working on to prepare for the combine.
“We’ve been working on my 40 starts, working on speed training, working on technique, and obviously the way I run routes and catch the ball,” he said. “When my agent contacted me, he told me he had been a scout and an agent for a long time and said he thinks I have the ability to play in the NFL.”
Along with the support from his family, the encouragement Taylor has received from his coaches he says have really helped him prepare and believe he has what it takes to get to the next level.
Sea Gulls head coach Sherman Wood encourages his players to not only become better players, but also better men. His enthusiasm and support for Taylor have been a major factor in the decision to go pro.
“(My coaches) have helped me stay humble and helped me stay encouraged. They’ve told me I belong in this position,” Taylor said.
Throughout the season, Taylor’s impact and leadership were shown each day the Sea Gulls took the field.
From the one-handed catch and winning touchdown he had against Frostburg to helping defeat Wesley for the first time in over a decade, Taylor felt the season ignited his desire to take on the NFL.
“A lot of things were swinging my way, and I kind of saw the favor of God for me, and the fact that if it’s the Lord’s will for me to do it, it’s going to happen,” Taylor said.
After seeing him at the NFL combine in 2014, Taylor has modeled parts of his game off what he saw from New York Giants’ wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. Both have the same hand size, same height and the same passion and determination for the game.
Growing up a Giants fan, Taylor admitted he would love to suit up alongside Beckham, but regardless, he just wants a chance to make the 53-man roster on any NFL team.
“It doesn’t matter which team. The Giants would be pretty amazing, but I’m just hoping for a shot with any team,” he said.
While Taylor prepares to take the next step in his football career, he continues to remain a leader to his younger teammates who are also itching to get a shot at the pros.
Although many Division III athletes don’t get the chance to make it, Taylor believes an athlete’s work ethic and ability to go above and beyond can make that dream a reality.
“If you’re trying to play at the next level, you have to have the mindset you’re on another level,” Taylor said. “You have to train that way. In the NFL, when the lights come on it’s a whole new level, and being at a DIII school, all odds are against you, but it’s possible.”
Regardless if Taylor gets signed to a NFL team, it’s obvious he has made his mark.
His humble nature and leadership skills have made him a person people want to be around. His faith in God and his support from his wife and family have given him the confidence to fight for his dream, even though the odds are against him.
The next few months could be life changing for Taylor, but regardless of what happens, at the end of the day it’s God’s plan.
“My faith in Jesus Christ, my integrity as a man, my desire to be the best are the things that allow my physical abilities to shine,” Taylor said. “You can depend on my standard as a man and my faith in Christ, and you’ll get my very best, and I think that’s something (scouts) can trust more than my physical abilities.”