120 Players To Know - USC's Taylor Mays
USC S Taylor Mays
USC S Taylor Mays
Posted Mar 13, 2009

Who are the players you need to know about? Maybe they've been under the radar, or maybe they're the future NFL stars who'll be a really big deal next April. Get to know the stars of 2009 as CFN profiles 120 Players You Need To Know over 120 days (one for each team) continuing with USC S Taylor Mays.

120 Players You Need To Know

USC S Taylor Mays

By Richard Cirminiello

Who is Taylor Mays? … If college football was an Olympic event, Mays would be competing in the decathlon. A truly elite physical specimen, he does just about everything well. He runs, he hits, and he has the experience that comes with being a three-year starter. Mays has already had a terrific career at Troy, but he wants more, which is why he put off the NFL and returned to campus. He wants another crack at a national championship and a chance to take on a greater leadership role in his senior year. On a Trojan defense that’s lost so many stars to graduation, he’s going to get that chance to be the elder statesman of the unit. At the insistence of his father, Mays started playing the game relatively late, and a few years later than he hoped. However, dad relented in the seventh grade, realizing his son’s physicality wasn’t going to be fully appreciated on the soccer field. He’s never looked back, dedicating himself to being in phenomenal shape and becoming one of the game’s most intimidating safeties.

Mays’ best game so far was … last September against Ohio State. Mays isn’t the type of player who can be easily evaluated by statistics. He’s often doing things on the field that’ll never show up in a box score, like making a receiver short-arm a pass or a back scoot out of bounds before the first down marker. He played such a role in last year’s rout of the Buckeyes, collecting seven tackles and helping hold them to just three points and 207 total yards.  

Why you should care about Mays? … If you like an enforcer, who can knock the snot out of an opponent, Mays is the type of player you’ll want to watch throughout his senior year. He’s one of the most unique all-around athletes in the game today and a candidate to be chosen real early in the 2010 NFL Draft. In fact, he’s the type of kid who’s going to blow away scouts next February at the Combine in Indianapolis.

Positives about Mays … Some safeties can deliver the payload. Other safeties can run like the wind. Mays is that rare gem at the position, who does both equally well. At just under 6-4 and 232 pounds, he almost defies the laws of physics by consistently running in the 4.3 range in the 40. He’s in tremendous physical condition, boasting 5% body fat, and is often the last kid leaving the weight room. In terms of the size-speed dynamic, he has few peers nationally.    

Negatives about Mays … While Mays does a lot of great things on the field, they’ve yet to translate into a slew of turnovers. He has just one interception in his last 29 games and just a single forced fumble in his career. Unlike some defensive backs, who could double as wide receivers, he does not have particularly soft hands when the ball is in the air.  

A cool thing about Mays you probably didn’t know … Mays’ dad Stafford was a defensive lineman for the St. Louis Cardinals and Minnesota Vikings in the 1980s. He’s got a game-day ritual, which includes texting some personal words of encouragement and things to look out for to his son. Stafford often mentions that Taylor’s grandmothers, who both passed away during his senior of high school, will be looking over him during the game.    

Career Statistics
2007: 65 tackles, seven pass breakups, and an interception
2008: 53 tackles, two tackles for loss, and nine pass breakups

Statistics, information and photo provided by the USC sports information department