Freshman running back Kelvin Taylor is expected to start the first game of his collegiate career Saturday when the Florida Gators take on the Georgia Bulldogs. Fittingly, the game will be played in the stadium his father made a name for himself in the NFL for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Kelvin was penciled into Florida’s 2013 recruiting class back when he was in the eighth grade, thanks, in large part, to his father Fred, a former Florida All-American, who ran for 3,075 yards in his Gator career before before getting selected ninth overall by the Jaguars in the first round of the 1998 NFL draft. In his pro career, Fred gained 11,695 yards so comparisons were inevitable for Kelvin and quite naturally they followed him to Florida.
Florida coach Will Muschamp has been careful to judge the son by the standards set by the father.
“I don’t think that’s fair to Kelvin to compare him to his father,” Muschamp said. “He’s his own player, and he’s a really good football player.”
The 12,019 yards Kelvin gained in high school got the hype rolling. After enrolling early at Florida, Kelvin made a quick impression on Gator fans in the Orange and Blue Debut, where with one 59-yard touchdown run complete with multiple cuts and slipping past bewildered tackles, stirred up the hype machine.
It took awhile for Taylor to start showing what he could do and it wasn’t until Florida’s last two games that he saw significant playing time. He gained 52 yards on 10 carries against LSU and 74 yards on 12 carries against Missouri with a touchdown as well. If he was just any other talented freshman, excitement would be mounting among the fans, but it’s amplified because of his last name.
At the beginning of the season, the Gators already had their own supremely talented running back tandem: sophomore Matt Jones and backup Mack Brown, a fourth-year junior. When Jones went down with a season ending injury, and Brown not playing up to expectations many had after he gained 112 yards in the season opener, the calls grew for Taylor to get increased playing.
Getting on the field had nothing to do with running the football — Florida’s coaches have gushed all season about how well Taylor runs — but the issue was all the other things a back has to do to contribute on the field.
“[Kelvin’s] a guy that’s got some special ability,” Muschamp said. “But the thing that’s really struck me as we move forward in the season is him doing a better job of protection and some of the things you’ve gotta do at the running back position besides running the ball. And he’s really worked really hard off the field on those things and I’m really proud of him.”
Teammates have noticed it too.
“Yeah, I think he’s a great spark to the offense you know we saw that the last game against Missouri you know he went in there and did a great job for us,” offensive lineman Max Garcia said. “Really excited to see what he’s gonna do this week.”
Fred admits his son is used to the comparison, but also hints that the extra responsibilities of a running back are what Kelvin needs to focus on.
“I think the pressure from him will probably come from making sure he gets the blitz pickup correct and doesn’t get the quarterback killed moreso than hearing ‘he’s the son of a former Gator, former NFL player,’” Fred told Gator Country in April. “I think he’s gotten used to that portion of it, he had a lot of fame and stardom in high school”
So don’t compare Kelvin and Fred. They may play the same position, wear the same number and have the same last name. But they played in different offensive systems in different points in time. It isn’t fair to put ones achievements against the other, no matter how well Kelvin plays.
It is fair, however, to remember why we link father and son in our heads: they’re both pretty good.