Few Nebraska offensive lineman have had more accomplished careers than Aaron Taylor, both as a player and through team success. By earning almost every individual honor a lineman could receive and losing just two games his entire collegiate career, Taylor went down as one of the all-time Husker greats.
In this week's edition of Where are they Now?, we caught up with Taylor about his memories from his playing days and where the Huskers are today.
You obviously have a ton of great memories to look back on from your days as a Husker. Which ones stand out to you as some of your favorites?
"There are some many. Probably for me, and I'm sure that you've heard this from some of the other guys, but just the camaraderie with the guys. The team atmosphere, the respect that we had for one another, the fun that we had with each other, the hard work that we put in toward one common goal, that's something I miss greatly. As far as just one play or one game, of course I look back to when I started my very first game, which I believe was 1995 at Oklahoma State. It was a Thursday night game on ESPN down in Stillwater. Of course that's a great memory for me in the aspect of, you know, I questioned myself my redshirt year of whether or not I could play Division-I football. Just one year later, I was starting.
"Probably the most significant time for me would be Senior Day. Getting introduced to the crowd and Coach (Tom) Osborne having a couple things to say to me and then being able to run out onto the field, it was extremely emotional. There were a lot of things going through your mind, reminiscing about the last five years and those kinds of things. That was probably one of my most proud moments as a Husker. Just the appreciation you get from the fans, it was just great."
When you look back on the offensive lines you were a part of, is it hard to fathom sometimes just how good you guys were as a unit during that span?
"It was an interesting time. We had a goal every game to average 300 yards rushing, and if we didn't achieve that we felt like we had failed and then worked our tails off the next week to make sure we got well over it to keep up our average. You see teams now where if they get over 300 yards, they're excited that they dominated the game. We were wanting to push over 300, and we did that.
"It was very interesting how Coach Osborne would present team goals to us. Part of the way the 300 yards a game average came about was we would sit down at the beginning of every season and go over our team goals. He would say 'hey, we've obviously got to dominate the running game. What do you guys want to rush for a game?' And we all said 280, 290, and he'd always give the stat that Army averaged 292 yards a game last year. Of course we all wanted to better than Army or any other team that was out there, so we would set the goal a little bit higher. That's how we ended up coming up with that goal. Oh, and not only did we want to rush for 300 yards a game, we also wanted to have an average rushing yards of 7.0 a carry. You start taking a look at that, and that's just an astronomical amount of yardage per carry."
|Where are they now? |
|Player: Aaron Taylor, 1993-97 |
Current city: Omaha, Neb.
Family: Single; Children: Caitlin (12), Emma (2).
Current profession: Taylor is currently a customer care manger for Union Pacific Railroad. He started out as a conductor, and has been with the company for the past four years. After his one season in the NFL, he moved back to Omaha to work for a company called Silverstone Group, doing property casualty insurance for roughly five years. Of course, he also teamed up with several partners to open a restaurant called the Scarlet and Cream Letter Club, which Taylor simply described as "a mess and debacle."
Professional career: Taylor was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts in the seventh round of the 1998 NFL Draft. He spent training camp with the Colts and was eventually placed on their practice squad. After he cleared free agency waivers, he was signed by the Chicago Bears, but he retired from football after the season.
NU career accomplishments: Taylor is the most recent and one of seven Nebraska players to have won the Outland Trophy, awarded to the best interior lineman, and is the only Husker to be awarded All-American honors at two different positions, center and guard. After earning a starting job as a sophomore, Taylor went on to be named first-team all-conference three seasons in a row. During his career, Taylor helped the Huskers to a 49-2 record and four straight bowl game wins, including undefeated seasons and national titles in 1994, 1995 and 1997. Taylor's No. 67 jersey was retired by the school in 1998.
One of the games people automatically think of when they look back on those offensive lines is the 1996 national championship game against Florida in the Fiesta Bowl. Was it really as easy at it looked for you guys?
"Was it as easy as it looked? Yeah, it was. Not saying that their talent level wasn't one of the better teams that we played that year, but Florida definitely wasn't the toughest team that we played. We know that toughness and teamwork and determination can go a long way and overcome just straight athletic ability. That's what we were. We were such a cohesive team in 1995 that it didn't matter if it was Florida or whoever, we always felt going into the game that it wasn't a matter of if we were going to win, it was a matter of by how much. We approached that Florida game the same way. No one was giving us respect, and we had a little bit of a chip on our shoulder in the aspect that we wanted to go out and not only run the way that we know how, but just to put a little bit of extra onto it.
"I think you could see that out of everyone, whether it was the offense going down and completely dominating their defensive line and linebackers, or the defense going out there and just manhandling (Danny) Wuerffel and that group. Even our special teams were out of this world. We were just clicking on cylinders, and we wanted to make the point that no one was giving us respect, so we're going to go out and prove to you that not only are we worthy of having that respect, we want you to say 'damn, that's the best team I've ever seen play.'"
Do you still follow the team much today?
"I do. I haven't gotten down to practice as much as I'd like because of my job, but yeah, I follow them through your site and other media."
Whenever I hear players from your offensive lines talk about what made you guys so good, they always talk about the cohesiveness and the bond the units had. What advice would you give to Nebraska's line this year to help them create the same kind of relationship with each other?
"First and foremost, just trust their coaches. The coaches are there to teach them and put them in positions to win the ball game. Don't question their authority, and just believe in them and go out there and work your tail end off for them. Probably the next piece of advice I would give would be really bond with your teammates. Make sure it's like family with whatever you do, whether it's going out to the movies or hanging out at the house, whatever you do just surround yourselves with your teammates and make sure you know their ins and outs, know their feelings, know their ups and downs.
"When you start doing that and you start becoming a family, when you step out onto the field, you can feel the flow, and you can see if somebody needs lifting up, you know how they tick and know how to bring them up or to calm them down. That's something that I really think that we had during the mid-90s, just a bond with each other that was just unbreakable."
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