Taylor Embree hadn't yet mastered the Pledge of Allegiance when his second-grade teacher asked him to recite it in front of the entire class. All eyes and ears were on Embree but he escaped the jam by improvising with something he knew well.
"I told her I didn't know the Pledge of Allegiance," Embree said, "but I could sing the CU fight song."
And the Colorado native did, leading his classmates through a rendition of "Fight CU." The UCLA receiver, though, claims he won't even think about humming the song Saturday when the Bruins host the Buffaloes at the Rose Bowl. As of Tuesday night, Taylor did not know whether his father, Colorado first-year head coach Jon Embree, planned on accompanying him for senior day festivities during pregame. Father and son are close -- they talk over the phone about six times a week -- but Taylor said he understands Jon has a job to do, which likely includes revving up the Buffs (2-9) before they take the field.
"We'll find out, but I know my mom is going to be nagging him to walk me out," Taylor said. "I told him I don't want him to use that as an excuse in the game. ... If he feels like he needs to get his team ready, that's fine. I'm just excited that he's even going to be on the field when I'm playing."
Taylor, who ranks fourth on the team with 13 catches for 152 yards, said he stayed up Monday night thinking about how cool it would be to add a football game to the list of things he's beaten his dad at. Billiards and video games? Check and check. Games of H-O-R-S-E? Check. The two stopped playing one-on-one basketball when Jon Embree, a tight end for the Buffaloes in the mid-1980s, realized his son could dunk.
Despite the importance of the home finale -- UCLA would move to 6-5 and become bowl eligible with a victory -- Taylor doesn't anticipate nerves to be an issue. But the senior knows emotions will intensify as kickoff nears, something UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel hopes his leading punt returner can control.
"It’s actually going to be one of those things that his family will look back on because it’s unique and it’ll be a positive memory," Neuheisel said. "He doesn’t need to worry about that portion of it, he just needs to make sure his last game at the Rose Bowl in a home uniform is a fantastic memory for him."
As for the song he knew at age 8?
"I'm going to be mad every time I hear that fight song at the game and I told my dad, too," Taylor said with a chuckle. "That song is going to be like a Trojans fight song to me. It's going to be annoying by the time the game is over."