There was never a question in Kelvin Taylor’s mind where he would play his college football. In fact, the decision was made far before Taylor even started playing football.
His father, Gator Great Fred Taylor, had an All-American career in Gainesville and even though Kelvin played the recruiting game for a while, he always knew where he would go to school.
“I love the Gator Nation,” Taylor said. “I’m a Gator for life. I’m just so excited I got a chance to come here.”
For Matt Jones, his future wasn’t as cut and paste as Taylor’s. Jones had offers from schools all over the SEC and around the country but pulled the trigger early and committed to Florida before his senior season. He didn’t have a Gator legend for a father, but he did have a similar message as the one Taylor spoke today back in 2011 when he committed.
I’m a Gator for life,” he said
Jones came on late in his freshman season — he ran for 183 of his 275 yards in the final five games of the season. Jones stepped up into the starting role heading into his sophomore season, as Taylor enrolled early as a freshman. Despite competition on the field, the two formed a bond and have become close off the field as well.
It created an interesting dynamic. Jones missed the first game as he battled back from an intestinal issue that caused him to miss fall camp. That opened the door for Mack Brown — who led the team in rushing against Toledo — and Taylor, who carried the ball five times for 43 yards late in the opener.
However, Jones returned and Taylor’s carries disappeared. Taylor only got one carry over the next month, while Jones got 75. Then, if having a health scare that hospitalized Jones for more than a week in the offseason wasn’t enough, his season ended in Baton Rouge on just his fourth carry of the afternoon. Jones felt sorry for himself at first but can you blame him for those feelings? He didn’t let them linger, instead took the ordeal as a learning experience, an opportunity to better himself mentally while time healed his body.
“[I learned] just that the game could be taken away from you at any point in time,” he said. “So definitely with school, finish with school with a degree because football could be gone. And just being out there with my boys, just taking advantage of that, laughing with them and stuff like that.”
Taylor benefitted from Jones’ absence. The then freshmen led the team in carries from the LSU game on and Taylor gave Florida glimpses of his father and what his future could be in orange and blue.
But he missed having his friend on the field with him.
Taylor and Jones’ bond on and off the field is real, despite competition for carries and reps. The two spend time together away from the field and on the field they take time to coach each other up.
“We’re just very excited to see each other get back out there on the field together and just have a great year together,” he said. “Cheer each other on and that’s what we’re going to do with all of our backs.”
Taylor and Jones even have a goal this season. Both players want to rush for 1,000 yards. That would mean both players would have to average 83 yards a game (not including potential postseason games). It’s a challenge both players have given to the other.
“I mean, this year we could be a 1,000-yard, both of us could go for 1,000 yards,” Taylor said. “We just gotta keep working hard and I feel like me and Matt can do that, yes.”
Both Jones and Taylor feel like the new offense will benefit them and they’re excited to unleash the offense on Saturday.
The whole team is excited to get back on the field. They buried the 2013 game tape — literally buried it — but for players like Jones and Jeff Driskel who missed significant time last season, there is a different hunger to get back on the field. Jones feels it every morning on his way to class.
“I’m anxious to get back out there Saturday. Even when I walk past to morning class I look at the field. I can’t wait until the stands are filled up and stuff and ready to go.”
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