Playing at Glades Day School in Belle Glade, Florida, Kelvin Taylor was afforded an opportunity that many young athletes are not. Taylor was allowed to play varsity football starting in eight grade.
Taylor’s high school career filled the record books and came to an end with an astonishing 12,019 yards, 192 touchdowns, two state championships and enough awards to clutter his dorm room at Florida.
He’s moved on to bigger and better things at Florida, a place where his father, Fred Taylor, became a legend and Gator Great. Following in his father’s footsteps, wearing dad’s old jersey number and playing the same position came with lofty expectations for the young back from a small town. Taylor was expected to be what his dad was and more but the opportunity to do that didn’t come right away.
After being a the star running back with the pedigree and the famous last name, Taylor was relegated to the third team runner in a crowded backfield behind Matt Jones and Mack Brown. Taylor did his best to keep his head up and trusted that if he worked hard he would be able to crack the lineup and show the coaching staff what he was capable of.
“I was just cheering those guys on and learning,” Taylor said of sitting behind two older running backs in the beginning of the 2013 season. “[I was] trying to get better every day in practice, just trying to do something to impress the coach to put me out there. Once I got my chance I know it was going to be on and I was going to have a pretty good game.”
He got a chance in the season opener against Toledo, carrying the ball five times for 43 yards in garbage time, but he didn’t play on the road the following week against Miami and would only total six carries through the first five games of the season.
His opportunity came when Jones went down with an injury in the first half against LSU. Taylor seized the opportunity that day — carrying the ball 10 times for 52 yards — and didn’t look back. He finished the year by carrying the ball 105 times (33 more carries than anyone else on the team in that time span) for 462 yards and a team-high four touchdowns.
Entering this spring, Taylor’s name sits atop the depth chart at running back — just like it did back in high school. With Jones sidelined due to an injury, Taylor is left to lead what he believes is a talented stable of running backs.
“We’ve got a lot of great running backs in there,” he said. “Me, Mack Brown, Mark [Herndon], Matt Jones, [Adam] Lane, all those guys. Brandon Powell, the freshman that just came in, I think all those guys will help us.”
Florida’s move from a grind it out, power running team to a more high tempo, spread out offense hasn’t bothered the running backs. Will Muschamp still wants to run the ball and even though the Gators will be in shotgun more this season, Taylor and the backs will still be a featured part of the offense.
“I like it. It’s a great offense,” Taylor said. “We get to play a little bit more in space. It’s fast. It’s very explosive.