Devin Taylor is a physical marvel.
The Beaufort native stands 6-foot-7. He weighs 266 pounds. His total wingspan is 87 inches and his vertical jump is 35 inches. He can run 40 yards in 4.72 seconds.
Sportswriters have a term for this type of rare athlete – they call them freaks. In fact, CBS Sports ranked Taylor No. 2 on its “Freak List: The 10 craziest athletes in college football” last year.
When the Detroit Lions saw Taylor was still available, they selected him with the 132nd pick of the 2013 NFL Draft.
“One of our goals coming into the draft was to get bigger and to get more athletic,” Detroit Lions general manager Martin Mayhew said in a release. “I think Devin’s the guy who actually does that for us. … We think he’s going to be a good addition for us on the defensive line.”
In high school, Taylor helped lead Beaufort High to the 2008 state championship game. In college, he helped lead the University of South Carolina to the 2010 SEC Championship game. He was a four-year starter for the Gamecocks, earning All-SEC honors.
Heading into the professional phase of his illustrious football career, Taylor took a few moments to speak with Hilton Head Monthly about the draft, his appetite and his love of the Lowcountry.
HHM: So you were drafted in the fourth round by the Detroit Lions. How does it feel?
DT: Just getting drafted is a dream come true. You can’t determine what team is going to take you or what round you’re going to go, but just getting drafted is a privilege.
HHM: How did you find out you were selected?
DT: I had just gotten out of the shower. Me and my best friend were getting ready to leave to go eat with one of our other friends. The draft was on TV and San Francisco had just taken Marcus (Lattimore) when I got the call from Detroit.
HHM: What friend were you watching it with?
DT: Stanley Davis. We pretty much grew up together, like since the sixth grade. He just happened to be in town that weekend.
HHM: I remember him. That’s “Scoop” right? Wasn’t he a track star when you guys were in high school?
DT: Yeah. He won state in the shot put when I won the triple jump that year (2008).
HHM: Being drafted by an NFL team is quite an accomplishment. Around 1 percent of all college football players experience that. Still, was it hard to watch 132 players selected before you?
DT: Not really. I didn’t have a clue where I was going to go or who was going to draft me. I was just kind of sitting around waiting.
HHM: Do you feel you are a good fit for the Lions?
DT: I think I can help out with their scheme. They’ve got two good tackles on the inside (Ndamukong Suh and Ogemdi Nwagbuo) and they needed a couple more people to come off the edge. That’s one of the things that I do best.
HHM: Detroit is 900 miles from Beaufort. Have you been there before?
DT: No. The furthest north I’ve been is Ohio.
HHM: What do you know about the city and the team?
DT: I know it’s the Motor City and a lot of cars are produced there (laughs). The only people I know of on the team are (defensive tackle) Nick Fairley, who I played against (at Auburn) in 2009 and 2010, and (quarterback) Matthew Stafford, who I went against (at Georgia) my freshman year.
HHM: Did you have any idea the Lions were interested in you?
DT: I met with them and several other teams at the all-star game. They didn’t show any more interest than the other five teams I met with (Seattle, Tampa Bay, Denver, Washington and Oakland).
HHM: You had a solid career at South Carolina. Do you have a favorite game or moment from your time there?
DT: I would have to say back in the 2010 season when we played Florida to go to the SEC Championship game. It was the first time (South Carolina) won in The Swamp. It was quite an experience.
HHM: You had several offers coming out of high school. You picked South Carolina over Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, Duke and NC State. Do you feel playing against SEC competition helped prepare you for the NFL?
DT: You see more SEC players in the NFL than other conferences, so yeah. When you play in the SEC, you play a high level of competition. It helped me as a player as far as getting ready to go to the next level.
HHM: The SEC dominated this year’s draft, setting a record with 63 picks. The old record was 55 by the Pac-10 in 1983. In your opinion, what makes SEC players so attractive to professional teams?
DT: They know we have to play at a high level every week. If you stand out on that high level, they take notice more than if you were standing out against lesser competition.
HHM: To prepare for the draft I understand you worked with Bruce Smith (the NFL’s all-time sacks leader). What was that like?
DT: I worked with him right before my all-star game. Even though he has been out of the game for several years, he still was able to pick up on little things here and there that I could do to make myself better.
HHM: How did that even come about?
DT: The person I was training with knew Bruce because he was also training his son, who is a freshman at Virginia Tech. They were talking about me one day and (Smith) wanted to see film on me. He decided he wanted to help improve my game.
HHM: When you left Beaufort High you were listed at 215 pounds. You are now listed at 266 pounds. How much of that weight gain is muscle?
DT: All of it.
HHM: How much time per day do you spend training?
DT: Probably about 2 or 2 ½ hours.
HHM: Your metabolism has to be off the charts. Could you go to a pizza place and knock out a large pie by yourself?
DT: Yeah, I could do that. I could do that just for lunch.
HHM: Your dad (Larry Taylor) has run the popular LT’s restaurant on Lady’s Island for years. You used to work there in the summers, cooking and cleaning. Will you still do that in the off-season?
DT: Probably not (laughs).
HHM: You graduated in December with a degree in integrated information technology. What made you pursue that degree?
DT: I like computers and I originally wanted to be a computer engineer. I ended up switching to integrated information technology and it worked out pretty well. There are several job opportunities available for me after I’m done with football.
HHM: You graduated from the same high school class as Candace Glover of American Idol fame. Do you know her well?
DT: We went to school together since like middle school and had a lot of classes together. We know each other but we’ve never really hung out.
HHM: We all know about Devin Taylor the football player. What do you like to do off the field?
DT: Fishing and hanging out with different teammates and friends. I like being outdoors, going camping and stuff like that.
HHM: Even though you’re going to a big city, will small-town Beaufort stay with you?
DT: Definitely. I grew up in Beaufort. There is no way I could forget about the place that grew me into the person I am today. It will always be my hometown.
FORMER HHP QB SIGNS WITH CHARGERS
The San Diego Chargers agreed to terms with undrafted rookie quarterback Michael Hermann (6-5, 250). The former Hilton Head Prep standout will participate in organized team activities through June 14 with hopes of making the team’s 53-man roster.
“I am obviously grateful to the Chargers for this opportunity,” Hermann said in a release. “To have an offer to join the organization with a contract is a dream come true.”
Hermann played college football at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, a Division III school located in Troy, N.Y. He led the Engineers in rushing yardage the past three seasons and completed 60.1 percent of his passes in 2012. Hermann is the fourth quarterback in the Chargers organization along with veterans Philip Rivers, Charlie Whitehurst and seventh-round draft pick Brad Sorensen.