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Adrian Taylor doing just fine
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Playing in the shadow of star Gerald McCoy, D-lineman shines
The only problem with Gerald McCoy, among the most pleasant stars to ever walk the Oklahoma campus, is the shadow he casts. He plays an extraordinary game, and acts a better one. So it’s hard to notice the show being put on by the guy right next to him.
Which is a shame, since it’s nearly as good.
Like McCoy, Adrian Taylor plays a mean defensive tackle. At times, it’s even meaner. OU center Ben Habern has had his fill of both Sooners the past two years at practice, and he calls Taylor “the hardest guy I’ve ever blocked.”
Like McCoy, Taylor is indefatigable. The Sooners used to rest Tommie Harris, but the only time Taylor has come off the field all season has been the second half of the 64-0 annihilation of Idaho State. It was a mercy spelling.
Like McCoy, Taylor is a producer. Going into the Nebraska game, he had accounted for 3.5 lost-yardage tackles, 2.5 sacks, a tipped pass that became an interception, a fumble recovery and a blocked kick.
Here’s the best part: Like McCoy, Taylor steps off the field and immediately becomes a cross between the biggest teddy bear and boy scout you’ve ever met.
If you can’t find Taylor in the locker room, try study hall. Or the student section at basketball games. Or, no lie, the fire station.
Several weeks ago, Taylor sat in the Switzer Center after practice and told reporters lucky enough to be within earshot, “Not a lot of people know this, but I want to be a fireman. I want to save somebody. I want to run out of a burning building and pull a baby out of my coat.”
So while Brandon Spikes tries to gouge opponents’ eyes out in one corner of college football, Taylor fantasizes about rescuing babies. That should make digesting what happened last Jan. 8 a little easier.
Back in the Switzer Center, Taylor was just getting warmed up.
“I want to do some heroic effort,” he said. “Maybe be a lifeguard, I don’t know. I just like to help people. But I’ve never really saved anybody. It’s something I want to do, save somebody.”
A bystander reminded Taylor that Tim Tebow had saved children. Or circumcised them, anyhow. Any chance he was jealous of the Florida quarterback?
“Nah,” Taylor grinned. “That’s baby Jesus.”
OK, so the overgrown teddy bear/boy scout has a wicked cynical side. An extra large sense of humor at the very least.
“He’s a character. He’s a fun guy, always joking,” McCoy has said. “He’s got that big ol’ head. We call him ‘Hammerhead.’”
Ask “Hammerhead” about playing basketball, he’ll say, “I don’t like to brag, but I happen to have a little extra bounce in there. I can get a little spring.”
Ask him about playing Texas in the Cotton Bowl, he says, “I’m like a kid in the candy store.”
Ask “Hammerhead” what kind of sacrifice he’s making to play so hard for so long, he’ll… What? Haven’t heard about the sacrifice?
“It happened my freshman year during lifting weights. Something didn’t feel right with my back, and it got diagnosed,” Taylor said. “Something happened to two discs. One of them degenerated…
“I didn’t think I was going to be able to play again. I could barely walk. I’d just be crying talking to my mom, talking to my dad. It was a real sad situation…
“It would hurt to sit down in a spot for 10 minutes. I’d have to adjust my sleeping patterns. I would have to move during classes. I’d have to explain to my teachers why I would get up, stand up in class. And then go from standing up to sitting down. Or bring a pillow to class to sit on.”
McCoy kept him company playing video games. Taylor rested as best he could and kept reporting for therapy. Gradually, his condition improved. Eventually, he returned for duty. Now, he’s in his second year starting next to McCoy, and playing his own starring role.
“Gerald gets a lot of credit for a lot of things (but) he doesn’t need to take credit for Adrian playing better,” coach Bob Stoops has said. “Gerald’s a pretty special guy, but Adrian’s holding his own and doing well.”
Back issues have already forced fellow defensive tackle DeMarcus Granger into a possible early retirement. It’s possible they’ll catch up with Taylor. He’s aware of that, but keeps on smiling just the same. Charging into that burning building, or diving into the deep end of that pool might just be more rewarding than beating Idaho State.
“I’m blessed to be in this situation,” Taylor said, using a line you sense will serve him wherever his bright future takes him. “Thank God for that.”
(Editor's Note: This column appears in the Nov. 12 issue of Sooner Spectator. To subscribe, call toll free 1-877-841-8877 or go to our online store.)