After last football season, Caleb Taylor sat down with his family to talk about his future, and if it involved him remaining at Virginia.
He had nothing against U.Va.’s coaching staff – as a matter of fact, he almost couldn’t imagine being tutored by a better group – and he loved his teammates. Still, a lot was changing in his life. His family was back home in Hampton, and his little girl had just entered the world.
“That just finalized it,” said Taylor, a Phoebus High graduate, regarding the arrival of his daughter. “When I got my release from U.Va., there were other schools contacting me…I thought about (Towson University in Towson, Md.), but I sat down and talked to my family, and my daughter was right there.
“I didn’t want to miss her growing up. I wanted her to be able to see me grow as a man and as a player so she could come to my games and come see me in my dorm room sometimes.”
Now, he’s closer to 2-month-old Cassidy Leigh Taylor, and he’ll still get the chance to play in the Football Bowl Subdivision by transferring from U.Va. to Old Dominion.
For a transferring football player, ODU has a lot to love.
Not only will Taylor get to play immediately this coming fall with ODU still a member of the Football Championship Subdivision in the Colonial Athletic Association, one of the most competitive FCS conferences in the nation, but he’ll get to jump right back into the FBS in 2013 when ODU moves to Conference USA.
Coming out of Phoebus in 2011, he was considered by some recruiting analysts to be among the nation’s top 45 linebacker prospects. He was part of a group of impressive Peninsula District-produced recruits, including Hampton High quarterback David Watford, Menchville running back Clifton Richardson and defensive end-turned-linebacker Daquan Romero, that all signed at U.Va.
Still, it’s not as if ODU was ever that far off Taylor’s radar screen in the first place. ODU was able to catch his attention in high school.
“At first, coming out of high school, I was leaning more toward West Virginia and ODU,” said Taylor, who is 6-foot-0 and 245 pounds, and who will be a redshirt freshman at ODU. “Then, U.Va. came in and I liked them a lot, but when I got there, it wasn’t the place for me. When I think back on it, ODU was still one of my top five schools coming out of high school.”
It doesn’t hurt ODU has a lot of familiar faces on the roster and on the coaching staff. Six of his old teammates from Phoebus are now at ODU, including fellow defensive players like safety Paul Morant, cornerback Markell Wilkins and defensive end Jonathan McLean. Bill Dee, who coached Taylor in his freshman and sophomore years at Phoebus, is now ODU’s defensive coordinator.
“I have personal relationships with the coaches (at ODU),” said Taylor, who in addition to hearing from Towson and ODU after he decided to transfer from U.Va. also heard a lot from Elizabeth City State University. “I knew them when I was growing up, so I kind of built a personal relationship with them.
“Their defense is basically like U.Va.’s in a lot of ways. They have the same calls and all that. I already have a grasp of the positions they want me to play (at ODU). Now, all I have to do is put it all in the mix and really compete for a starting spot before the season gets started.”
So, what went wrong at U.Va.? What made him decide to transfer so soon after arriving in Charlottesville?
“The vibe there just didn’t work out for me as a whole,” Taylor said. “Football was good. Classes were good. The coaches were cool. It just didn’t work out how I’d planned. Coach (Mike) London and (linebackers) coach (Vincent) Brown and (defensive coordinator Jim) Reid were some of the best coaches I’ve played for. It wasn’t anything against them. It was about coming home and (U.Va.) not being a fit for me up there.
“Things didn’t work out how I planned. I just decided to come closer to home, closer to my family and my little daughter and play for (ODU) coach (Bobby) Wilder and his program.”
Taylor started out last season working on U.Va.’s scout team as a strong-side linebacker, but he said he was splitting time on the strong-side and at middle linebacker by the latter stages of the season. He said ODU’s coaches told him they plan to keep him working at the same positions.
Classes at ODU have already started for Taylor, as he tries to catch up on a few credits. That might’ve been the biggest surprise of all for Taylor – the notion that credits from an elite academic institution like U.Va. wouldn’t transfer over to ODU.
“That was the craziest thing about transferring to ODU,” Taylor said. “Coming from U.Va., I thought everybody would take U.Va. credits. Coming down to ODU, they didn’t take that (credit) and they didn’t take that (credit). There were a few little mishaps there, but (ODU) took all the credits I needed to get in. It worked out for the best.”
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