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2020 NFL Draft: The Education of Davion Taylor

The Buffaloes linebacker has several NFL teams taking notice.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 02 Colorado at UCLA Photo by Jevone Moore/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The phrase “started from the bottom” is often overused to describe a rags to riches success story. But for Colorado Buffaloes linebacker Davion Taylor, the road towards the NFL Draft was a years-long climb.

Not many people move on from Magnolia, Mississippi. The small town of about 2,000 is practically unchanged over the past century. The rural town sitting ten miles from the Louisiana border is where Taylor’s football story took shape, but never really started. He was one of the best players on the South Pike Eagles’ roster but only appeared in two games total.

Keeping the faith of the Seventh Day Adventist Church meant Taylor had to skip out on many football games and basking in the glory of the friday night lights. For Adventists it is mandatory to rest on the Sabbath, the 24 period between sunset Friday and sunset Saturday. In the religious Taylor household, this was non-negotiable, so Taylor’s career only began at 18-years-old.

Not playing was difficult for Taylor, but he knew he had a bright future in the game. “I knew during my senior year I was the best practice player,” Taylor said. “It showed me I could compete with other players and sometimes it seemed surreal. But I realized how it was my hard work paying off.”

I’ll pave the road I walk on

Taylor doesn’t have the resume of a prototypical NFL prospect. He had no scholarship offers out of high school but that was a blessing in disguise. Taylor’s road less-traveled led him from Pike County to Coahoma Community College, about 250 miles up the delta to Clarksdale, Mississippi to walk-on to the Tigers football program. With no other options on the table, Taylor was forced to thrive in a place most people never see opportunity.

As a freshman in 2016, he quickly rose to the occasion as a two-sport athlete both on the football field and on the track. He was one of the fastest speedsters on the team with a 100-meter dash time of 10.51 seconds. Taylor qualified for the NFCAA Track and Field Championship in the 100-and 200-meter dashes that year.

His performance was equally as impressive on the football field. He started just three games as a walk-on freshman, but by the end of his sophomore season, he was a burgeoning star who racked up 87 tackles, three pass breakups and an interception.

Taylor was impressing on the football field and major schools started taking notice. A number of SEC schools along with Colorado, who looked like the unlikely odd duck, came calling with offers midway through his sophomore season. It was coach Ross Els who helped to sell Davion on a program out west trending in the right direction. He was sold, committing to Colorado in June of 2017.

Colorado became home to Taylor, but competing in the Pac-12 was uncharted territory. Taylor was developing as a student of the game and knew joining the Buffaloes would be a leap. “The biggest adjustment was the competition level,” Taylor remarked. “I came from Coahoma and realized half of the team was full of next-level elite players. I had to compete from day one at CU.”

And compete he did

Taylor went into overdrive with long hours of studying playbooks and game film well into the late hours of nights before games. Growing at the next level did not always come easy. Taylor recalls it being “the most difficult lesson” of his football journey.

“Actually learning the game of football and how to be a great teammate was key for me,” Taylor noted. “Since I was new to the game, I had to learn so much in a short amount of time. It was difficult, but I appreciate the process of being able to develop.”

All of the extra time spent working on his technique translated into improvement for Taylor on the field. He became one of Colorado’s senior leaders last year, finishing his college career with a total of 136 tackles, 20 tackles for loss and two sacks, nine pass deflections, three fumble recoveries and a defensive touchdown. He did most of that learning on the fly, and once everything clicked, he was arguably CU’s best defensive player.

Taylor has world class track speed as a 6’1, 225-lbs linebacker. Having that much velocity makes for a uniquely skilled defender who closes ground in a hurry and blows up plays before they start. He loves to play at the line of scrimmage, where he feels most at home playing next to his 300-lbs teammates. It’s that combination of athleticism and competitiveness that give scouts reason to believe he can develop into an NFL starter.

Going Prime Time

Several NFL teams have shown serious interest in Taylor, including the Atlanta Falcons, Las Vegas Raiders and Philadelphia Eagles. His message to those teams who have him on their radar is clear: give me an opportunity.

“I am hungry and ready to come in and compete,” Taylor said. “My drive is like no other and the more I learn the game the better I will become.”

Taylor is still a work in progress. His education is still expanding. He didn’t start watching the NFL until he began his Colorado career and he doesn’t model his game after anyone in the league. He’s trying to be the best version of himself he can be, but he knows it will take time to realize that potential.

Versatility might be the key for Taylor, at least early on.

“Teams seeing my game film will show them I can be a great player on special teams,” Taylor said. “I’m willing to compete before earning a starting spot. Most of the NFL scouts I’ve talked to see my speed and the way I can cover almost any tight end or running back.”

Taylor is expected to be drafted somewhere in the middle rounds, most likely the fourth round. He would be yet another NFL player to come from Mississippi, but the first from Magnolia and the fifth from Pike County. It’s been long road thus far, but the journey has ways to go.

Coverage of the 2020 NFL Draft starts on Thursday, April 23 (8 p.m. ET.), and will continue through Friday (7 p.m.) and Saturday (12 p.m.).