Davion Taylor could see the Friday night lights and hear the Friday night cheers from his bedroom window in Magnolia, Miss., but couldn’t be a part of it.
The Eagles draft pick’s family belonged to the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Its sabbath ran from Friday evening until Sunday morning. Playing sports during the sabbath was frowned upon.
Taylor played basketball and ran track in high school. He averaged 10 points and eight rebounds a game as senior.
He practiced with the football team and was one of its best players but got to play in only one game. And that was because kickoff happened to occur before sundown for that one. For the record, he had 10 tackles and one interception in that game.
“I was raised my whole life [as a Seventh-day Adventist], so I knew it was coming up and I wasn’t going to be able to play [football],’’ Taylor said shortly after the Eagles selected him in the third round Friday night.
“It hurt not being able to play. But I watched my older brother go through the same thing. So I didn’t really pester my mother that much about letting me play. The deal was once I turned 18, it would be my decision.’’
He lived just three minutes from his school. So he would sit in his bedroom on game nights and gauge what was going on in the game by the roar of the crowd and the sound of the PA announcer.
“I could open my window or the back door and hear the crowd, hear the PA announcer. So I could tell if we scored or something bad happened,’’ Taylor said.
After graduating from high school, Taylor attended Coahoma (Miss.) Community College. He tried out for the football team there and earned the last spot on the roster as a linebacker.
“I didn’t really want to abandon my religion,’’ he said. “So, when I tried out for the team, I prayed and asked [God] that if he didn’t want me to play, then don’t let me make the team. When I made the team, I felt it was God telling me it was OK. I continued to follow my religion. I went to church on Saturdays and everything when I was home. But I played football, too.’’
He played it very well. He had sprinter’s speed, which helped him compensate for any knowledge shortcomings. He became a starter at Coahoma and eventually earned a scholarship to Colorado, where he was a two-year starter.
Because of his limited experience, Taylor still is a work in progress. While he started 20 games at Colorado and played in 24, he didn’t force a turnover.
The good news is that he is one of the fastest players in the draft. The 6-foot, 229-pounder ran a 4.49-second 40 at the NFL scouting combine and followed it up with a 4.39 at Colorado’s pro day shortly before the coronavirus pandemic closed everything down.
He has the kind of versatility that Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz loves. He can cover slot receivers, tight ends, and running backs. He is a slippery blitzer. At the very least, he should have an immediate impact on special teams.
“This guy is one of the fastest, most explosive players in the draft,’’ Eagles general manager Howie Roseman said. “He’s got some raw to his game, which was why he was there in the third round.
“But he’s got some rocket ship to him. He can find the ball. He can play in space. It’s a space game. He has the physical ability to cover the slot, to cover tight ends, cover backs. Those kind of guys are hard to find.’’
Taylor is a better athlete than a player right now. He doesn’t have the natural instincts of someone who has played the game for 10 years. But his speed covers up a lot.
“I had a chance to see him play live against Oregon up in Eugene last year,’’ Eagles vice president of player personnel Andy Weidl said Friday. “In that game, you saw his speed. He chased down a few running backs. His speed just stands out.
“He has the speed to play man coverage against running backs, tight ends, slot receivers. He flies to the ball. He has taken a little different path to get here than most guys. But you can see the traits. He’s just an athletic kid, an athletic mover.’’
The Eagles are all about speed these days. Roseman made it clear right after the season ended that getting younger and faster were two of his team’s top offseason priorities.
In the first round on Thursday, they took one of the draft’s fastest wide receivers, Jalen Reagor. Earlier Friday in the second round, they took Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts, who ran and threw for 5,149 yards and 52 touchdowns last season, and ran a 4.59 at the February scouting combine. A little later, they grabbed Taylor.
“At the end of the day, when we try to figure out our vision for this team and how we want to look, we want to be fast,’’ Roseman said. “That’s how coach [Doug] Pederson feels. That’s how I feel. And that’s how Andy feels.
“We’re not going to sacrifice talent for speed. But at the same time, this is a speed league. We talked a lot about positionless players and guys you can line up all over the field. It’s so hard to play station-to-station football on offense. And on defense, if you have a weakness, offensive coaches will find it. They’ll find the weak link and exploit it.
“So it has been an offseason objective for us to get a little younger and get more speed on the field. But we’re not selecting these players because they’re fast. We’re selecting them because they’re good football players.’’
Taylor understands that he is not a finished product. He understands there is going to be an even bigger learning curve in the NFL than there was at Colorado.
“Just being more physical,’’ he said when asked what he needs to improve. “I’ve always been a physical linebacker, but I can bring it out even more. Taking on blocks, shedding blocks, and making big plays.
“I know at the next level there are going to be guys as fast or faster than me. I feel now it’s more about me learning the game so that I can just react and not think so much. I’m anxious to get on the field.’’
Taylor has been a sponge for the last four years, trying to soak up everything he could about the game to make up for all the learning time he missed in high school when he couldn’t play.
“When I went to [Coahoma], I asked so many questions,’’ he said. “I worked after practice. If I did something wrong, I wanted to make sure I got it right. That’s the mentality I’ve had for the last four years.