A few weeks ago, Clemson offensive coordinator Tony Elliott looked at true freshman Will Taylor and decided to give the quarterback/punt returner a nickname.
"Coach Elliott said, 'I'm going to call you Maverick.' 'Maverick?' Yeah, like Goose and Maverick from Top Gun,'" Taylor recalled Tuesday. "I was like, 'OK, I like that.'
"I guess me and Maverick have some of the same qualities. Maverick seems like a very confident guy."
So is Taylor. The Dutch Fork High School (Columbia, S.C.) standout showed right away he could handle a major role with the No. 6 Tigers. In his first-ever game and the biggest regular-season game of the season, Taylor fielded punts against Georgia, something most young players have to earn over a long period of time.
But the coaching staff believed in him, and Taylor rewarded their decision by fielding clean punts for the last two weeks and returning one for 51 yards against S.C. State last week.
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"He's just a baller," Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said, who's also used Taylor in running-quarterback packages. "He just gets it."
Taylor is a big-time competitor. Once football season is over, he'll become a two-sport student-athlete and move over to the diamond to help Clemson baseball coach Monte Lee's squad. Taylor turned down an opportunity to begin a pro baseball career during the summer, choosing Clemson over the money.
"The experience was too hard to turn down," Taylor said. "I got a few calls the second (MLB draft) night, but (the offer) wasn't enough for me to turn down this experience."
Taylor spent weeks going over the pros and cons with his family. Turn to professional baseball and try to navigate life at 18-years-old that neither he nor his family could relate to, or stick with Clemson and enjoy the college life.
It was a no-brainer for Taylor, who wasn't drafted until the 19th round by the Texas Rangers. He decided the night after the draft to play for the Tigers. It's a decision that's paid early dividends for both he and the football team.
"It was going to take a lot for me to leave this place," Taylor said. "The culture around here is really special."
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