Former NFL great Emmitt Smith 'proud' of Glades Day's Kelvin Taylor, who nears Smith's state high school rushing record
Thursday, November 10, 2011
by Matt Porter
Emmitt Smith has never seen Kelvin Taylor play football. But after hearing about the Glades Day junior who's close to breaking his Florida high school rushing record, the NFL legend has given himself a homework assignment.
"I'm going to have to go on YouTube and pull down some footage," Smith said by phone Thursday. "I'm sure he has his father's speed."
Kelvin Taylor has 8,587 career rushing yards, 217 yards shy of the 8,804 Smith put up at Pensacola's Escambia High from 1983-86. Taylor, who averages about 243 rushing yards in eight games this season, has a shot to break the record tonight when Glades Day travels to South Fork. Glades Day also has a home playoff game next week against Hialeah-Champagnat.
Smith, 42, learned of Taylor's achievements after a call from Kelvin's father Fred Taylor, a recently retired NFL running back, Glades Central alum and, like Smith, a former Florida Gator.
But Kelvin Taylor knows plenty about Smith.
"Man, he had everything," Taylor said. "He was explosive, had great vision, could break tackles. He had everything."
High school opponents say the same about Taylor, who at 5-feet-10 and 205 pounds, stands an inch taller than Smith.
In his career, Taylor has been taken out at halftime numerous times against weaker opponents. With Glades Day at 6-3, Taylor has a third straight state championship on his mind, but he wants the record this week.
"I'm going to be playing the whole game," he said.
Smith had his own goals as a high school senior in Penascola. Not knowing who held the state rushing record, he wanted to reach 8,000 yards. He still doesn't know who held the record before him. "When I was going for the high school record, the only person I recall hearing about was Ken Hall."
In 1953, Hall, known as the "Sugar Land Express," set the national high school record of 11,232 yards. Smith ended his high school career second to Hall, but Smith has since fallen out of the top 10 nationally.
Taylor, 18, started playing on the varsity as an eighth-grader at the private school in Belle Glade. He already holds Palm Beach County records for career rushing yards and rushing yards in a game (437, believed to be a state record). He also is the state's all-time leader in touchdowns (135 and counting).
But Taylor has his detractors, who claim by playing for a small school like Glades Day, he has piled up rushing yards against weaker competition.
"Running the football is running the football," Smith said. "And he's done it better than anybody in the state of Florida."
And as Taylor approaches the record in football-crazed Belle Glade, he hears about Smith constantly.
"I never paid attention to it. Now, I want to be the best high school running back that ever played the game," he said.
He also did his homework on Smith.
He knows about Smith's NFL records for career rushing yards (18,355) and touchdowns (164). He knows about the eight Pro Bowls, the bust in Canton, Ohio, and the Ring of Honor spot in Gainesville.
He also knows about Smith's Super Bowl XXVIII MVP award, earned when he fought through a shoulder injury to rush for 132 yards and two critical fourth-quarter touchdowns against Buffalo.
"That showed what kind a running back he was," Taylor said. "Ever since then, I've had respect for him. He got dinged on his shoulder bad. But he got back in there. He told his coaches, 'I'm ready to go.' "
Taylor battled problems of his own - knee surgery last year and migraines this year. And just as defenses threw everything at No. 24 for the Escambia Gators, they now focus on No. 21 for the Glades Day Gators.
"I'm proud of the young man," Smith said. "I look forward to watching him run some day at the next level."
That could be at Florida or Alabama, Taylor's favorite schools. One day, maybe even the NFL, where he could chase Smith's all-time career rushing record.
"I guarantee you," he said, "if God blesses me to get to the NFL, I'll be thinking about that record too."