PORT ARTHUR —
By David Coleman
The News Sports Writer
NEDERLAND – What’s the most impressive thing about Nederland senior cornerback Zach Taylor? Let’s start with the fact that he routinely does a full-on backflip and lands flat-footed while in full pads.
“I don’t know, I just have no fear,” Taylor said. “It never crossed my mind not to do it. Football is the best sport on this earth. I’m just trying to keep people smiling out there.”
Sheer athleticism not your thing? Well, let’s move on to Taylor’s versatility on the field. He currently starts at cornerback, returns both kicks and punts and plays a little running back, too, just for good measure.
“I just do whatever it takes for our team to get better at any position, I’ll do what I can,” Taylor said. “I guess I just put all effort into it and hope it brings something positive to the team.”
How well does he play those spots? Against Angleton, Taylor rushed for 60 yards on eight carries. That’s an average of 7.5 yards per touch and Taylor hadn’t really seen time in the backfield since his freshman year.
“He’s probably the most athletic player on our team,” Nederland head coach Larry Neumann said. “He’s remarkably blessed athletically. He’s been very unselfish throughout his career about what he’s been asked to do. After the Angleton game, we talked to him about focusing a little more seriously on (running back), because of the things he brought to the table.”
If dominating at one position impresses you most, look no further than what Taylor has been able to do at cornerback. For the last two years, Taylor has been a very good cover corner who’s able to limit what opponents can do through the air. In fact, his favorite high school memory comes from his sophomore season when he was matched up against PN-G’s Jayce Nelson.
“It was a crazy experience, to be one of the younger players on the team and be up there with all the seniors,” Taylor said. “It was back and forth during the game. I got a lot of recognition because of Jayce Nelson, who is pretty much one of the best receivers I’ve ever covered. It was a good introduction to varsity football.”
Nelson did catch 10 passes for 173 yards in that game in 2010, but last season, Taylor and the Nederland defense held Nelson to just five catches for 53 yards.
Of course, Taylor points at his teammates, in particular his front seven, as his biggest source of help in shutting down opposing receivers.
“Coach (Terry) Pool is a good coach,” Taylor said. “He’s helped me a lot in all my preparation for tackling during games. He’s had a lot of effect on it. I approach (the tackle) and hope I can get a couple hands on him. If not, I know I’ve got 10 other guys flying to the ball.”
Still not convinced or impressed? For Neumann, the biggest change in Taylor from his junior season to this one has been his maturity on the field and in the film room. That transformation has turned him into a highly impressive player.
“Between his junior year and now, he’s gotten a heck of a lot more mature,” Neumann said. “The way he practices, the way he acts and performs in the classroom have all improved. I’ve told him so and congratulated him for making those strides. We tried to stress that to him in the offseason, taking that next step in maturity, not just in football, but for his next step in life, too. I’m proud to say he’s taken the steps he need to so he could develop into that kind of guy. We’re going to miss Zach Taylor when he’s gone.”
Another key to Taylor’s success on the defensive side of the ball is his tackling.
“He’s pretty close to our best tackler in the secondary,” Neumann said. “There have been times where if he doesn’t make the tackle, the guy goes the distance, and he’s gotten it done in those situations. He does a great job of tackling.”
Taylor has 12 tackles this season and one pass deflection. He credits the coaching staff for preparing him each week and faith in his teammates if he does miss a tackle here or there.
“Our front four is ridiculous,” Taylor said. “If they get past them, they have to deal with Stampley and Wood. That’s just another reason why we never get much action at cornerback. Our front seven is just that good. Our defense is just a band of brothers. We’re all kind of wild and crazy guys on that side of the ball.”
Taylor has done enough so far to impress college coaches, as he’s talked with some Division I programs this season. But, he’s enjoying his time at Nederland before thinking about the next step.
“It’s everyone’s dream to go to a DI school,” Taylor said. “Some schools have sent me questionnaires and wanted me to come see their games. I absolutely want to go to college and pursue my career as a coach as a kinesiology major. I’m just waiting on the right offer from a college right now.”
BULLDOG BITES: The son of Brandy Cardenas and James Taylor, Zach has had exactly four tackles in each game Nederland has played this season. His pass deflection came against Crosby….Taylor has been named to the second team defense for District 20-4A for two straight seasons. … Taylor is one of four three-year starters on the defense this season. He joins Koby Couron, Brock Pryor and Jordan Wood. … Nederland returns to a regular practice week after having two days off last week with the bye. The rest was a much-needed respite before playing potential playoff team Vidor this week. The last time Nederland played at Vidor was in 2010, when they lost 24-14 to the Pirates.