STUART – Nevermind the fact that he’s the son of one of the greatest running backs to ever suit up for the Florida Gators, or in the NFL for that matter. Even with the excellent pedigree, Glades Day junior running back Kelvin Taylor always seemed to be on a collision course with what happened on Friday night – when he eclipsed Emmitt Smith as the most prolific running back in the history of Florida high school football – from the moment he was born.
“He was always big – 10 pounds, 2 ounces at birth.” Tiffany McGrew said of her son following a 43-29 win for the Glades Day Gators on the road at South Fork to cap off the regular season. “Ever since he was a little boy, he always knew everything about football. His uncles introduced him to it. He knew how to get set and line up even before he was a year old.”
Yes, his dad just happens to be Fred Taylor. Sure, he broke the mark of NFL all-time leading rusher Emmitt Smith with his sterling performance. But none of that mattered on this night. All that mattered is one thing – Kelvin Taylor now stands alone in the record books for what he’s accomplished, as opposed to the names long associated with his success. With over a season of high school football left in him, he shattered the mark long held as one of the most sacred in the annals of high school football in the state of Florida. A 34-yard touchdown jaunt with 4:32 to play in the second quarter gave the record to Taylor. But he wasn’t done there, oh no – he was just getting started.
The 5-foot-10, 205-pound bulldozer rushed for 388 yards and six touchdowns on 34 carries – including a 95-yard scamper in the third quarter to put the game out of reach for Glades Day – as the Gators coasted to a two-touchdown win and now head into the playoffs with a record of 7-3.
“It feels great right now,” Taylor noted in the afterglow of his record-setting performance. “It’s a blessing, God just blessed me to break the record tonight.”
Emmitt Smith rushed for 8,804 yards (on 1,127 carries) at Pensacola Escambia during a high school career which spanned 1983-86. His mark stood in the record books for 25 years until Friday night. Taylor, who has competed for Glades Day since his eighth-grade year in 2008, now has 8,975 yards and 141 career touchdowns – also a state record.
Although the record was an individual one in nature for Taylor, he’s quick to share in the limelight and the praise with his teammates, according to his head coach, Pete Walker.
“Kelvin always gives credit to his offensive line – he’s a great teammate,” explained Walker, who has captained Glades Day to back-to-back state championships over the past two seasons. “He’s such a great, likable kid that the guys love blocking for him. They were as excited as he was about getting the record tonight.”
Following his third touchdown of the night – the score that broke the mark – Taylor walked over and handed the ball for his record-setting run to his mother. It was a poignant moment that clearly meant a lot to both members of the so-called “Taylor Gang.”
“It was the best thing in the world. Just thinking back, from when he started in little league, to this moment – I never believed this would happen,” she said before adding. “But it did.”
Now with the much-discussed “chase for Emmitt,” in the books, Taylor can shift his focus on to other things – like leading Glades Day back to Orlando again, for instance. The chase for a third consecutive state championship begins next week for the Gators.
And, of course, Taylor thinks there is still plenty of work to do in the way he approaches and plays the running back position.
“Keep getting better,” Taylor answered when asked where he goes from here. “There’s a lot of stuff I can improve on – even the way I hold the football.”
Then there’s that little matter of the chase for the national career rushing mark, held by Ken Hall (also known as the “Sugarland Express”). He still stands on top of the national landscape, nearly 60 years after he finished playing high school football, with 11,232 career rushing yards. One mark down, one to go for the star Class of 2013 prospect. But for tonight, he will simply have to savor being the most prolific rusher ever to play in the history of Florida high school football. Certainly, that’s not a bad little title to own, either.