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Former Ohio Valley Boy Doing Well with Browns


Capo Regime
Staff member
Had to post something about the only NFL player I can call a friend...

[font=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]Versatile Taylor plays the field[/font]
[font=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif][size=-1]By Steve King, Associate Editor[/size][/font]
[font=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif][size=-1]August 9, 2004[/size][/font]
[font=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif][size=-1]So great is the respect and admiration for Brant Boyer among the Browns linebackers that Ben Taylor doesn’t even want his name mentioned in the same breath.[/size][/font]

[font=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif][size=-1]But the fact remains that Taylor is the closest thing the Browns have to Boyer until he heals. And that could take a long time, since Boyer could be lost for as long as 10 weeks – possibly the first six games of the regular season – after breaking the fifth metatarsal bone in his right foot in last Friday morning’s practice against the Buffalo Bills.[/size][/font]

[font=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif][size=-1]Taylor doesn’t have Boyer’s experience or longevity. Taylor was still a senior at Bellaire (Ohio) High when Boyer was at the same point of his career where Taylor is now – in his third NFL season. And Taylor isn’t as accomplished, either. Boyer has been voted the Browns special teams captain by his teammates the last three seasons.[/size][/font]

[font=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif][size=-1]But the gap between the two players is much closer when it comes to versatility, which is Boyer’s strength.[/size][/font]

[font=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif][size=-1]Taylor started eight games at weakside linebacker in 2003 until elbow and back injuries slowed him down in the second half of the season. Moved to the strong side this offseason, he became the starter when Chaun Thompson suffered a broken wrist that will sideline him for at least the first two preseason games.[/size][/font]

[font=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif][size=-1]However, Taylor wasn’t at either spot in Saturday’s scrimmage against the Bills. He was moved to backup in the middle behind Barry Gardner for the depleted Browns, who were without Boyer, starter Andra Davis (in Florida to attend the funeral of his grandfather) and Mason Unck (who did not make the trip because of a slight hamstring strain). He hadn’t played middle linebacker since high school – and then only briefly.[/size][/font]

[font=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif][size=-1]“We didn’t have anyone else,” Taylor explained. “Because of the situation, we were out of middle linebackers.”[/size][/font]

[font=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif][size=-1]Taylor was back out at his “usual” spot as the strong-side starter when practice resumed Monday morning in Berea. Maybe later in the week he’ll take a shot at free safety, flanker, quarterback or punter, where he played in high school. Or maybe as the trainer, equipment manager or the guy driving the team bus downtown to Cleveland Browns Stadium for Thursday night’s Gridiron Preview.[/size][/font]

[font=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif][size=-1]You get the idea.[/size][/font]

[font=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif][size=-1]And did we mention that Taylor, like Boyer, also plays special teams? He has even practiced as a long snapper, which is one of the few things Boyer has never done.[/size][/font]

[font=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif][size=-1]“The more you can do to help the team, the more valuable you are,” Taylor said. “No matter what spot you play, you’ve got to know a little about all three linebacker positions.”[/size][/font]

[font=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif][size=-1]But even the coach knew he was asking Taylor to go above and beyond Saturday when he went to the middle so the Browns could field a defense.[/size][/font]

[font=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif][size=-1]That is why Davis apologized for the way he had to use Taylor in the scrimmage.[/size][/font]

[font=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif][size=-1]No need to.[/size][/font]

[font=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif][size=-1]“When you’re asked to do something, you do it,” Taylor said. “That’s what you’re paid to do. A lot of guys are paid a lot of money in this league.[/size][/font]

[font=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif][size=-1]“And anyway, I like the challenge.”[/size][/font]

[font=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif][size=-1]Playing football – well – has never been a challenge for Taylor. But getting noticed for it, and getting his just due, has.[/size][/font]

[font=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif][size=-1]Despite being a finalist while at Bellaire for the Mr. Football award, given to the top player in the state, and leading his team to two Division IV state title game appearances and a 35-3 record, teams weren’t exactly busting down Taylor’s door to recruit him.[/size][/font]

[font=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif][size=-1]“I wasn’t Big Ten material in terms of my size,” Taylor laughed. “I was just 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds as a senior.”[/size][/font]

[font=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif][size=-1]So, as the now well-known story goes, Taylor put together his own highlight video from his days with the Big Reds and sent it out to every school on the map. That eventually landed him a spot at Virginia Tech, where he ended up being a two-time Butkus Award semifinalist and eventually a fourth-round draft pick of the Browns in 2002.[/size][/font]

[font=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif][size=-1]He became a starter by his second season, but, in keeping with his career storyline, he was benched in the offseason to clear the way for Thompson, a big, strong, fast and athletic second-round draft choice in 2003. Taylor also was forced to switch sides, going from the weak side to the strong side. Kevin Bentley was moved from strong-side starter to Taylor’s old starting spot on the weak side. That job has just been claimed by Warrick Holdman.[/size][/font]

[font=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif][size=-1]“I’m used to it,” Taylor said of the demotion. “I’ve always been the underdog. I’ve always been too short, too small, too slow, too this or too that.”[/size][/font]

[font=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif][size=-1]Taylor was back at Virginia Tech completing work to earn his degree in interdisciplinary studies when the Browns re-worked their linebacker corps. So he didn’t hear about all the change until he returned to Cleveland.[/size][/font]

[font=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif][size=-1]“I talked with our (linebackers) coach, George Edwards, and he just told me, ‘This is what we’ve decided to do. This is the direction we’re going,’ ” Taylor said. “Sure, I was disappointed. You want to start. That should be everybody’s goal. But you can’t get caught up in that.”[/size][/font]

[font=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif][size=-1]How can you not get caught up in being told you’re not good enough?[/size][/font]

[font=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif][size=-1]“I use it as a motivation to prove people wrong,” he said. “I always have.”[/size][/font]

[font=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif][size=-1]Taylor refuses comparisons to Boyer – “No, Brant’s Brant,” Taylor said -- but he may be the next-best thing to him.[/size][/font]

[font=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif][size=-1]“Ben has a nose for the football,” said Browns right tackle Ryan Tucker. “He’s one of these guys you’ve got to take good angles on, because he’s going to the football on every snap. He’s fast, and he’s smart. I think he’s a really good linebacker.”[/size][/font]

[font=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif][size=-1]But at what spot?[/size][/font]

[font=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif][size=-1]“Any outside ’backer position where they can just let him run,” Tucker said. “I think that’s his best attribute.[/size][/font]

[font=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif][size=-1]“He doesn’t get fooled a whole lot, even on the trick plays. He knows where the ball’s going. And that’s huge.”[/size][/font]