“Seattle Seahawks, baby! Hard work does pay off and dreams do come true.”
Former Tennessee defensive end Darrell Taylor shared his gratitude on Twitter shortly after the Seahawks drafted him in the second round.
For Taylor, family has been a constant in a life otherwise dedicated to football. When Taylor’s name was called in the second round, it wasn’t just his dreams that came true that day - it was the dreams of everyone around him. The Taylors offered the courage, motivation, and support Darrell needed to reach the NFL level. Family means everything to most football players, and Taylor is no different.
Taylor grew up in Hopewell, Virginia, which is 30 minutes outside of Richmond. The proud local describes frequenting the picturesque James River, as well as surveying the historical sites in Richmond and the surrounding area. But when Taylor comes home from breaks at Tennessee, it’s not for the sake of tourism. He comes home often to spend quality time with his sister and nephew.
“Every time I come home, I spend time with them,” he said. “I just try to be around my family as much as I can because I stayed in Tennessee a lot trying to get my academics and everything straight. So I sacrificed that time with them during that period of time and every time I come here, I just like spending time with my family and just enjoying the great outdoors that Virginia has to offer.”
The importance of family time has only grown while away at Tennessee, especially with the newest addition to his family. Taylor welcomed a son in July 2018, and although parenting adds to an already busy schedule, he found a balance between school, football, and fatherhood.
“It’s been a great experience having my son,” Taylor said. “When I’m not doing football, I’m trying to spend as much time with him as I possibly can... it’s been a great experience being able to play college football, work on my academics, and be a father to my son Ka’marii.”
Having a son has taught Taylor how to “become a better man” and “be a father to [Ka’marii] each and every day.”
The selfless nature of fatherhood taught him lessons on being a better person through patience and unconditional love.
“I think I’ve learned how to understand people and understand him because he’s a child and he’s young so I’ve learned how to be patient with him, teach him things that my dad wasn’t around to teach me when I was younger,” he said. “Just being able to be there for him through everything, whatever he needs and being able to be his father figure because I am his father. Just being there with him every step of the way, that’s what means the most to me.”
Taylor knows firsthand the difficulty of growing up without a father present, which is why being there for Ka’marii is so important to him.
“My father was incarcerated when I was younger, so I just want to be better than what my father did when I was younger so that’s what I’m doing,” he said.
Although his father couldn’t be present during his youth, Taylor’s mother was there for Darrell and his sister, raising her children amongst their family in Virginia.
Unfortunately, Taylor endured the painful loss of his parent once again. He lost his mother to breast cancer during his sophomore year in high school in 2013. He didn’t play any football that year.
Coping with impossible loss, Taylor turned to familiar sources of strength: his family, his team, and his community.
“My aunt was there for me a lot - I lived with her for some time of my life, too,” Taylor said. “She was there for me every step of the way. My sister was there, she was the only sibling I had with my mother. So they were there for me each and every step of the way.”
To help cope with the loss of his mother, Taylor turned back to football. He even credits his linebacker build and versatility to his athletic parents. According to Taylor, his size and athletic ability comes from his mother, who was a 6-foot-1 power forward in basketball. Taylor played basketball and football his whole life, and while basketball came naturally to him, football was his ultimate calling.
“The football field was like my realm - it felt like I was at home,” he said.
When he lost his mother, Taylor turned to his community to continue his path forward in life.
“My coaches at my high school were there behind me when my mom had passed,” he said. “I feel like my whole city was pretty much there for me every step of the way going through this process and going through that time when my mom had passed. They were all there for me and they were my backbones to make sure that I kept a straight mind and make sure that I had everything that I needed to graduate from high school, make it to college and do what I’m doing now.”
The support Taylor received in Hopewell would eventually land him on Tennessee’s roster, where he’d compete against the best college football players in the country. During his senior season, Taylor became the SEC’s highest-graded edge defender per Pro Football Focus and tied for the second highest sacks.
Soon enough, Taylor made a home in Neyland Stadium, forming a brotherhood with his teammates at Tennessee. Here, he made genuine friends teammates who were there to cheer him on as he journeys on to Seattle.
Now, the sacrifices of the Hopewell community and the Taylor family have helped him find another family to join, as Seattle fans welcomed Taylor with open arms and insisted that he is now a part of the Seahawks family in “the land of the 12s.” Taylor will be lining up as an edge rusher for the Seahawks to terrorize opposing quarterbacks and stifle the outside running attacks frequently seen within the NFC West division.
Family was there for him at the most difficult time in his life, and they were there to celebrate one of the happiest days of his life on April 24.
“I’m watching the draft in Virginia with my family, and I have just some immediate family here,” Taylor said. “It was everything that I hoped for when [the Seahawks] called me, then I saw it on the TV. It was a very exciting moment that I’ll never forget.”
Together, the Taylors have a new joy to celebrate: a brother, father, nephew, or friend has made it into the NFL, depending on whom you ask.
Hard work pays off, and dreams do come true. And if you’re lucky like Darrell Taylor, life’s victories are shared with those who have been there since the beginning - and the team that made his NFL dream come true after all.