New York Giants director of college scouting Marc Ross believes they have found a hidden gem in Richmond safety Cooper Taylor.
Marc Ross on S Cooper Taylor: "I think we got a hidden gem here." #NYG
— Ralph Vacchiano (@RVacchianoNYDN) April 28, 2013
The Giants took Taylor in the 5th round of this year’s NFL draft. He’s a big kid that stands at 6 feet 4 inches tall and weighs 228 pounds.
Taylor has a very interesting story of his path to the NFL. Giants.com has the story.
While starting at free safety for the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in 2009, he was having a banner campaign through three games, but was then diagnosed with Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome, which is characterized by abnormal electrical pathways in the heart. The illness was discovered when trainers saw that he had an extremely high heartbeat in the game vs. Miami on September 17th.
Taylor underwent a corrective procedure to correct the condition that can cause the electrical charges between the heart’s chambers to become out of sync. The former Tech safety’s surgery was performed in November to restore normal rhythms in his heart, according to medicinenet.com. He was granted a medical redshirt and made a limited return to the gridiron in 2010.
Taylor’s father, former Georgia Tech quarterback Jim Bob Taylor, said the family endured “a scary day” at Atlanta’s Piedmont Hospital when the heart procedure, expected to last about three hours, instead lasted most of the day. The surgeons accessed the heart pathways through Taylor’s groin in the outpatient procedure.
“They kept saying ‘We’ve got to go back in,”‘ said Jim Bob Taylor. “I thought gosh, what else are they going to find? We thought maybe it would be no problem and he’d be back in practice in maybe a week. With it being that long, he just lost a ton of weight. It was a long process.”
Taylor, who had been about 205 pounds for the start of the 2009 season, lost about 20 pounds, back down to about 185. He returned for spring practice and suddenly found it easier to add weight. The defensive back said his high metabolism has always made it difficult for him to gain weight. He weighed only about 185 pounds as a freshman in 2008 and was up to 220 as he handled the starting job at safety for the first three games of that sophomore season.
“I tell him it’s probably a blessing that it happened because it gave him a year to mature,” said Jim Bob Taylor, who started in the 1982 season. “He needed to get bigger and lo and behold that year off helped him. He’s about 20 pounds bigger than he’s ever been.” Cooper Taylor said he feels even faster than two years ago, when he was Georgia Tech’s fastest player.
Taylor said he gained confidence along with more muscle while recovering from the surgical procedure. He ran the 40-yard dash in about 4.3 seconds as a 185-pound freshman at Georgia Tech, the team’s fastest time, and says he feels even faster now.
On March 19th, 2013, Taylor was measured at 228 pounds for scouts in attendance for the Spiders’ Pro Day. He exploded out of the blocks and was timed at 4.49 seconds in the 40-yard dash.
Taylor was also clocked at 1.60 seconds in the 10-yard dash. He added a 4.29-second timing in the 20-yard short shuttle and performed the three-cone drill in 6.96 seconds. In other agility tests, he lifted 225 pounds 23 times during the bench press drill. He added a 36 ½-inch vertical jump and 10-foot, 7-inch broad jump.
Those numbers further cemented his draft status, which had been on the rise ever since the scouts’ consensus was that the Spider safety was the best performer throughout practices leading up to the 2013 East-West Shrine Game. With 231 tackles in 38 collegiate games during his career, along with seven interceptions and fourteen pass deflections, he has drawn lots of attention for teams looking for a strong safety with range.
Other NFL organizations like Dallas and Carolina are also considering him as a viable Cover-2 outside linebacker candidate, as both teams feel he might be a nice fit for their aggressive defensive schemes. “That’s what I like to do, just chase the ball,” Taylor said. “As a defense that’s what coach instills, to compete on every play and chase the ball until the whistle is blown. That’s my mentality, just flying around and playing fast and physical football.”
Taylor was a two-time all-state and all-county selection at Marist School, where the Atlanta native earned three varsity letters in football. He played a variety of positions on the prep level, including wide receiver, free safety, running back and quarterback.
The versatile athlete led his team to the state championship game and a regional championship in 2006, as he broke the school single-season interception record that year.
Taylor was ranked by Super Prep as the state of Georgia’s 61st-best overall prospect and rated the 78th-best safety in the nation by Scout.com.
Taylor decided to remain in-state when he accepted a scholarship offer to attend Georgia Tech in 2008. He was also heavily pursued by Mississippi State, Virginia and Duke. In his first varsity season, he earned Freshman All-American honorable mention and was a second-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference choice, despite starting just three of the thirteen games he played in.
Even with limited action with the first unit, he finished second on the team with 69 tackles (45 solos), as Taylor caused two fumbles, picked off a pass and deflected two others. He took over free safety duties as a sophomore, recording fourteen tackles with a pass theft during the Yellow Jackets’ first two games, but was taken out of the Miami clash after he experienced a very rapid heartbeat. He would be sidelined the rest of the year to fully recover from surgery.
Taylor was excited to return to the gridiron in 2010, but he missed about a week of fall camp with a sprained knee. “Once I made it through spring I was like okay, I’ve got that behind me,” the safety said. “When I hurt my knee I was like ‘Uh oh, I don’t want to be hurt again.”
Taylor didn’t want to miss practice time. If he did, he felt he would fall behind Jarrard Tarrant, Mario Edwards and Isaiah Johnson in the competition for two starting spots at safety. “You could tell he was hungry to get back on the field,” said senior linebacker Brad Jefferson. “He’s been doing extra work to get his injury better. You saw a sense of urgency there.”
The red-shirt sophomore would start the season opener vs. South Carolina State, but did not come out of the locker room after halftime and the coaching staff mysteriously kept him out of action for the next two contests for what they would only describe as an “undisclosed injury.”
Head coach Paul Johnson would later call the “injury” as heat-related symptoms. Taylor said the heat-related illness wasn’t caused by his heart condition, but played sparingly the rest of the season, appearing in just two more games. He finished with five tackles and chose to transfer to the University of Richmond after the seasons, for his final two years of eligibility.
“Cooper will be a great addition to the University of Richmond both athletically and academically,” Richmond coach Latrell Scott said in a statement at the time Taylor enrolled at the university in 2011. “He is a tremendous football player and we’re excited to welcome him to the family.”
Taylor appeared in the first eight games on Richmond’s 2011 schedule before the injury bug again sidelined him for the final three contests. The starting safety, now measuring 220 pounds had posted 63 tackles with a forced fumble, three pass deflections and a 44-yard interception return.
Injuries continued to plague him in 2012. In early June, Taylor was wrapping up a bench-press set when the right side of his upper body collapsed. “It felt like somebody ripped a phone book in my chest,” the University of Richmond’s senior safety said. UR’s medical team initially suspected a torn pectoral muscle.
Football translation: out for six months. “A major concern. With a torn pec, very seldom is there a good outcome,” said first-year Spiders coach Danny Rocco. “I would have been lucky to get back for the William and Mary game (on November 17th), or if we made the playoffs,” Taylor said. “Needless to say, I was a little dejected at that point.”
Additional examination and surgery revealed that the problem wasn’t nearly that severe. Taylor damaged areas around the pectoral muscle. He missed about six weeks of summer activity. “It was better than Christmas,” Taylor said of his reaction to the modified medical assessment. “Recovery was great. I’m 100 percent. I got back close to my (bench-press) max (in late July). I’m not going to push it, just because. But I’m good to go. I got very lucky with this.”
Without the 6-foot-5 230-pounder, the Spiders would have been missing a captain and their defense’s key and mobile playmaker. Taylor is more a hybrid rover than a safety. He sometimes is situated on the line of scrimmage, sometimes at a linebacker’s depth and sometimes 10 yards off the ball.
“Cooper has the physical numbers to maybe be a linebacker, to play near the line of scrimmage, to rush the passer,” Rocco said. “But he also has the range and speed and ball skills to play in the back end. The more he’s fluid and moving around, the more he can give the offense different things to worry about and deal with.”
Taylor returned for 2012 fall practice, but in August, he suffered a broken bone in his right hand and sat out the season opener vs. Virginia. He returned the next week and would subsequently play a few games with a padded cast. After recovering from that injury, he broke his left hand on November 3rd vs. Rhode Island, and played the final two contests wearing another padded cast.
The senior earned All-American and All-Colonial Athletic Association honors as a senior. He finished third on the team with 78 tackles, making five stops behind the line of scrimmage, as he caused three fumbles. Three of his four pressures caused interceptions. Despite his hand problems which turned several sure-fire pass thefts into break-ups instead, he had four interceptions and nine deflections in ten games.
Taylor also saw brief action on offense as a wildcat back during his final season. “I was more than willing. It’s been a lot of fun to do,” said Taylor. With a broken left hand, he relinquished the wildcat role vs. Delaware. On defense, he couldn’t hold three passes he stepped in front of, apparently because of the cast on his hand. He finished that game with eight tackles, including a sack, was credited with a quarterback hurry, forced a fumble, made the game-ending interception in the end zone, and broke up two passes in UR’s
Invited to play in the 2013 East-West Game, Taylor was one of the few standouts through-out the week-long practices. CBS Sports reported that with his impressive size for his position, it was very rare to see a 230-pound 6:04 safety roam the back half of the field like the Richmond Spider displayed.
His athleticism was also better than expected, flowing well to the action and breaking down on the move. He showed good footwork in drills and drew some praise from the coaching staff for his closing quickness on plays in front of him. That week also started to create a great bit of buzz among the scouts and NFL representatives in attendance for the game and scrimmages.
The East-West coaching staff routinely praised the former Spider for his decisiveness and burst, arriving to the play quickly and ready to blow up the ball carrier. While there were times when he played too upright during full contact drills, he more than compensated with his aggression and was called the most physical player in practice.
All scouts in attendance stated that it was Taylor who stood out as the most impressive defender on the East squad during practices. With his size and strength, he is an enforcer vs. the run, but he also showed the range and athleticism to be effective in coverage as well as the football intelligence to digest a lot of coaching all at once. He routinely drew praise from the coaching staff during drills and often made the calls to get his teammates in proper position.