In this file photo Eric Taylor, right, goes airborne on his way to taking down a defender while playing for the British Columbia Lions of the CFL.
“This is my home.” Former Franklin County Rebel, and current professional football player Eric Taylor said of Franklin County.
A University of Memphis product, Taylor was drafted into the NFL in 2004 as a seventh round draft pick by the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Through football Taylor’s travels have taken him to Pittsburgh, Minnesota, Seattle, Tennessee, Edmonton, Toronto, and most recently British Columbia.
Despite so much travel, he still calls Winchester his home, spending half of the year in the small town that most folks forget about when they move off. Taylor cites family as one of the large factors into spending so much time at home.
After being drafted, Taylor spent two years in Pittsburgh before going from the Minnesota Vikings, to the Seattle Seahawks, to the Tennessee Titans where several thought he had possibly his best training camp.
Unfortunately, Titans were loaded with defensive tackle talent, keeping only the following four, Tony Brown, Albert Haynesworth, Kevin Vickerson, and Antonio Johnson.
Cut toward the end of preseason, the Titans didn’t completely sever ties with Taylor. Jeff fisher always kept the door open according to Taylor, who was allowed access to the Titans facilities as a member of the team or not.
“They did things to help me further my career,” Taylor said.
Furthering his career is exactly what he did, moving to the Canadian Football League where he has exceled.
Each year since 2008 Taylor has increased his tackle and sack numbers. In a largely passing league, Taylor gets the opportunity to get after the quarterback.
During his time in the CFL, Taylor has played for the Edmonton Eskimos, Toronto Agronauts, and most recently the BC Lions. Last year, Taylor recorded five sacks and 35 tackles, both career highs.
No stranger to hard work, for six months out of the year Taylor is home training, often-helping kids lift as well.
As a kid, Taylor remembers his AAU coaches whom volunteered their time.
Taylor now gives back in his own way, hosting his now sixth annual S.T.E.P. program, which stands for striving toward excellence and performance.
The program is a one-day event for kids’ ages 5-18, which is designed to help hone speed, agility, and overall athleticism. For a charge of just $10 kids receive a t-shirt, breakfast, lunch, and coaching from former professional athletes.
“I try to stress to parents, it’s just one day, come and try it out,” Taylor said of the event.
This year’s event will be held on Saturday, April 26 with registration from 7 a.m. to 8:45 a.m. and activities held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. For more information, see sports briefs in this newspaper.
Taylor plans to eventually open a speed and agility facility for local athletes to work on their craft.
As he prepares for his eleventh year of professional football, Taylor noted that hard work and determination have been his driving force to a respectable career.
“I was one of the guys that was always in the gym, whether that was lifting weights during football season, or shooting during basketball season,” the answer Taylor gives when people ask how he made it to the next level from high school.
Noting that playing athletics without wanting to make it to the college level is just fine, Taylor says that for those who want to, they need to work on their skills besides just at practice time.
“If you want to get to the next level, you have to want it,” Taylor said of the local talent.
Taylor will report to camp for the BC Lions for his fourth year with the team, hoping for continued success in his eleventh year as a pro.
Still in good health, Taylor hopefully has several years left as a professional, but no matter where his talents take him, he will always come back home to Winchester.