St. Petersburg, Fla. – Michael Taylor was one of only a few three-star-rated players participating in an Under Armour All-America Game crowded with five-star prospects. But it was the senior from Atlanta’s Westlake High that is coming home with the hardware after Saturday’s nationally-televised all-star game.
Taylor, a 6-foot, 190-pound linebacker who is committed to Tennessee, was named most valuable player for Team Blur after his performance here at Tropicana Field. He’ll add that trophy to the one he got earlier this week for winning the obstacle course competition in the Burger King Skills Challenge during practices up in Orlando.
“Yeah, a lot of people didn’t think I’d do the stuff I did when I came down here,” Taylor said in the locker room after the game. “I just took it personal showed the world that I belong at the top.”
While alternating snaps with four other linebackers, Taylor was credited with a modest three tackles. But all of them were big hits, including one bone-jarring tackle for a two-yard loss on fellow Atlantan and good friend Mack Brown of Team Nitro.
“I told him I was going to do it,” Taylor said with a big grin. “Told him on the plane over here. And it happened.”
Brown managed just eight yards on six carries and did not play much in the second half due to a bothersome hamstring injury. But he got the last laugh. His team beat Taylor’s team 32-7.
“Winning the game means a lot,” Brown said. “Just being here is a blessing. But it was nice to win.”
It seems Taylor benefited a lot from visualization. That’s what he credits for the MVP award.
“I told myself I was going to [win MVP] and I ended up getting it,” he said. “If you say it and you believe what you say there’s isn’t any doubting it. I worked for it and it ended up happening.”
Preparation, he said, was the key to winning in the skills challenge.
“I started working out for that as soon as I found out I was going to be in it,” Taylor said. “I watched it last year and I knew I was going to be participating. So I just worked on getting better at it and ended up winning it.”
Taylor is considered small for a linebacker, which is a big reason why he came in with three-star ratings from both Rivals.com and Scout.com. But ESPN’s Scouts Inc., which selected the players for Saturday’s game, gave him a four-star ranking.
“Small by size but big in heart,” Taylor said. “Football is 90 percent mental and 10 percent physical. I’ve got what it takes inside. The outside will come.”
Brown shared carries with Loganville’s Storm Johnson, who finished as the game’s leading rusher with 30 on seven carries (4.3 ypc).
In all 12 players from Georgia played in the game, featuring 88 of the top college prospects in the nation.
It was a good day for the less-highly-touted prospects. Also standing out was Norcross defensive end Adrian Hubbard, who had two tackles for loss, a sack and a quarterback pressure, and wide receiver Tai-ler Jones, who had three catches for 43 yards. Jonathan Dowling had two interceptions for Team Nitro. All average three-stars in rankings.
MVP for Team Nitro was defensive tackle Dominique Easley of Staten Island, N.Y., who committed to Florida during television broadcast.
Quarterback play and pass protection were poor. Six quarterbacks combined to complete just 24-of-66 passes with four interceptions and three TDs.