More than 50 FCS players with hopes of earning an NFL contract were invited to the three main postseason all-star games – the Senior Bowl, East-West Shrine Game and NFLPA Collegiate Bowl. Brett Taylor, who had 469 career total tackles at Western Illinois, was not one of them. Brett Taylor, who had 162 total tackles in his senior season alone, was not one of them. Brett Taylor, who finished second by one vote for the Buck Buchanan Award given to the best defensive player in the FCS a year after finishing seventh, was not one of them.
If those last three sentences seemed redundant, imagine what’s cycling through Taylor’s mind every day to give himself extra motivation to pursue his dream of playing professional football.
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A top linebacker in the FCS for three straight seasons, his path to the NFL Draft got tougher by being snubbed from the all-star game rosters. Those invites give players a chance to show scouts what they can do more so in practices than the actual games. For some players, it’s the reason their draft stock skyrocketed.
“I was frustrated,” Taylor told HERO Sports. “I thought I did enough during the season and throughout my three years to maybe get a nod, but I guess it just wasn't in my plan. It was tough watching those games on TV. I saw tons of people I played against. But it just made me more motivated and I can't wait to get after it at pro day.”
[credit]WIU Visual Production Center[/credit]
Taylor isn’t letting the frustration linger in a sour manner. He’s using it to his advantage. The 6-foot-2, 230-pounder stayed in Macomb, Illinois, to begin training a couple weeks after his season ended in late November. He signed with United Athlete Sports Agency and has continued training in Dallas since January.
“I remind myself every single day that there were 50-some FCS guys in the top three bowl games and I wasn't even one of the top 50 guys,” Taylor said. “So I just have to outwork all those guys every single day and then continue to outwork the other people, too. They had one more opportunity to showcase their talents and I only have one chance to showcase my talents at pro day. So I have to put everything on the line every single day and do my best.”
Taylor has a familiar Missouri Valley Football Conference member putting in the work right by his side. South Dakota State all-American wide receiver Jake Wieneke also signed with the same agency. The two are living together in an Airbnb with Arkansas State defensive back Blaise Taylor and Illinois running back Kendrick Foster. Wieneke is a sure NFL Draft pick with an invite to the NFL Combine. Taylor has a more challenging route.
MORE: FCS Snubs from the 2018 NFL Combine
NFLDraftScout ranks him the No. 17 inside linebacker in this year’s draft. Last year, 13 inside linebackers were selected while 50+ inside/outside linebackers signed undrafted free agent deals.
The stats don’t lie. Taylor had 144 total tackles as a sophomore, 134 as a junior and 162 in 2017. He had several scouts come and watch him in person during the season. They love the way he plays, Taylor said, but he hears questions about his athletic ability. He’ll look to answer those questions at both the Northwestern and WIU pro days in mid-March.
His pro day in Macomb will be a sort of final send-off from the place he grew up in, played high school and then college ball. It’s where the dream of playing in the NFL began. And it’s where his dream turned into a realistic opportunity after his sophomore season as a Leatherneck.
“It’s been absolutely amazing,” Taylor said on the hometown support. “Right after the season I got so many texts from high school and college friends, old teammates and coaches. (Former WIU head coach and current South Dakota head coach) Bob Nielson and USD’s entire staff reached out to me. They’ve all been keeping tabs on me and it’s been unbelievable. They all have my back to matter what.”