ESPNU 150 prospect Michael Taylor (Atlanta, Ga./Westlake) being told he's too small to be a productive linebacker on the next level, is the least of his concerns.
His passion to make plays on the football field come from much deeper than that.
On the gridiron, hardships in life, drive the 6-foot-1, 195-pound Taylor, including in this past Saturday's Under Armour All-America Game.
Inside Tropicana Field in St. Petersburgh, Fla., Taylor had three tackles including one for loss, earning team MVP honors for Team Blur against some of the nation's top prep players.
Smiling after the game, you couldn't tell that just a week ago, Taylor and his family came home on Christmas to find that their place had been robbed, and nearly everything was gone.
"That was my motivation for the Under Armour Game," Taylor said. He is currently verbally committed to Tennessee, but recently began talking with Notre Dame. "I went down there knowing about that, and my mom wasn't happy about it. If I did it for anybody, I did it for my mom.
"I don't know how many people did this, but right after the game, I ran right up in the stands and gave my mom a big hug and kiss and told her I loved her."
That kind of love is what carries Taylor and his family through.
Living with his mother and younger brother, the family had been robbed one other time since moving to Atlanta from San Diego. Taylor's 10-year old brother has been diagnosed with diabetes, and his aunt was recently in a car accident. That's just the half of it.
"We're working, and I'm working hard trying to make it," Taylor said.
"I have my own motivation for doing what I do on the field. Life hasn't always been an easy thing for me. I try to push through these trial and tribulations and do well for my loved ones. They've been through so much with me, and I have so much motivation, and I'm going to try and be the best at what I do."
When the pads come on, the results have certainly translated. Ranked as the 12th-best outside linebacker in the country, and the 137th-best player overall, Taylor hits ball carriers in between the white lines, like they did something to violate his kin. He finished his senior season with 144 tackles, with 22 coming for loss including 7 ½ sacks. Taylor also forced a whopping 18 fumbles, broke up two passes, and had a safety.
"I like hitting, and I always seem to find the ball," Taylor stated.
Taylor also brings that hard-nosed work ethic into the classroom, where he has a 3.5 GPA, and has a plus-1300 SAT score.
"I'm staying focused because I know I want better for myself," Taylor stated. "That's pretty much it. I don't want to settle."
Before his senior season back in early August, the four-star Taylor verbally committed to Tennessee, choosing the Volunteers over Georgia, Miami, LSU and Stanford. With less than a month until national signing day, Taylor says he's open to hearing if any other school has something better to offer.
"Tennessee is a nice place for me, but recruiting is funny," Taylor said. "These places are trying to use you for your abilities on the football field. You have to see what you can get out of them. I'm just going to have to see, and sit down and talk with my mom and coach about it, but for now, I'm committed to Tennessee."
One of the reasons why Stanford was one of Taylor's finalists, was because at the time, his good friend Tai-ler Jones (Gainesville, Ga./Gainesville) was verbally committed to the Cardinal. Taylor said Jones name dropped him to the Stanford staff, and he started to hear from head coach Jim Harbaugh and company.
Taylor now credits Jones, who will now play receiver for the Irish and enroll early next week, as the person who put Notre Dame on to him.
"I've benefited from knowing him a lot," Taylor said. The two roomed together this past week during all the Under Armour Game festivities. "(Notre Dame) just came on with the new head coach. Tai-ler was the connection, and Tai-ler told them about me. That's probably how they got on to me."
Taylor recently talked with Irish assistant coach Tony Alford.
"He said they liked my film, and he said they have to get to know me better, and get to know my grades, but talking to me on the phone, he said he could tell I'm hardworking, and that I'm a good person that would be a good fit for their program."
Notre Dame is currently the only other school Taylor has had contact with, and says he'll definitely consider the Irish.
"It's their tradition," Taylor began. "It's Notre Dame, a great program every year. You have a great opportunity to go in and play great football, and get a great education, and education is something I value. They're on TV, and I liked being on TV last Saturday, and I'd like to be on TV every Saturday."
Despite being told he's too small at times, Taylor's drive and perseverance has him dialed in to accomplish his goal of being on TV and everything else.
"I've always believed I'm an elite player and one of the top players in the nation. People say I can't do this or can't do that, but it's more what you do off the field than what you do on it that determines how good you are. Football is a mental game. If you have what it takes inside, it will come out outside. If you have the heart and determination inside, there is no limitations to the abilities a guy can have outside."
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