Thursday, Jul 5 at 10:24 AM
Madison High School blue-chip defensive tackle Vincent Taylor was a 10-year-old fifth-grader when he and his family, displaced by the ravages of Hurricane Katrina, moved from New Orleans to San Antonio in September 2005.
The harrowing memories of riding out the killer storm with his family in a downtown New Orleans hotel and the images of the devastation it wrought on his hometown are seared in Taylor’s memory.
“I’ll never forget it,” Taylor said. “I saw dead bodies and buildings destroyed. We lost everything but our car and the clothes we packed when we went to the motel. When we left New Orleans, it was like we were leaving our lives behind.
"But as bad as things were, we saw people open up their hearts and help each other. My life changed, but it's just a blessing to be here."
The Taylor family headed west about 10 days after Katrina slammed into New Orleans and found refuge in San Antonio.
“We had some family on my wife’s side living here,” Victor Taylor Sr. said. “We noticed right off that the people in San Antonio were friendly, helpful. They made us feel welcome.”
The move wasn’t as easy for Vincent. He remembers missing New Orleans and going through a rough time at school initially after his family settled in San Antonio.
Taylor has started on varsity since sophomore year
“It was a good thing and a bad thing,” Vincent said. “I knew I would get a good education in San Antonio, but it was rough at first. Some kids would tell me, ‘Go back to New Orleans’ and it would upset me.”
Taylor got in a few scrapes when he was in elementary school and middle school, but things were markedly different by the time he set foot on the Madison campus as a freshman.
“Everything got better at Madison,” Taylor said. “I played football in the seventh and eighth grades, but I wasn’t that committed to it. By the time I was a freshman, I really wanted to play and worked hard to get better.”
Suffice it to say that nobody at Madison has told Taylor, now a 6-foot-3 and 277-pound senior, to go back to New Orleans.
A starter on the Mavericks’ varsity since the season opener of his sophomore year, Taylor committed to Oklahoma State in June and was the only player from the San Antonio area selected to the first unit of Texas Football magazine’s high school super team this summer.
“He’s big and strong,” Madison defensive line coach Paul Miller said. “He’s very physical. He disrupts a lot of stuff in the backfield for the other team. He’s got the strength that he can drive a center back or an offensive lineman back.
“Another thing that makes him a special player is that he can also cover from sideline to sideline. A lot of the tackles he makes are along the edge, chasing somebody down."
Taylor started playing football at age 8
Taylor made his first varsity start in Madison’s nationally televised season opener against Steele in 2010. The game was billed as a duel between Mavs running back Aaron Green and Knights running back Malcolm Brown, but it also turned out to be a coming-out party for Taylor.
“That’s the story I always like to tell about Vincent,” Miller said. “ESPN was in town talking about Malcolm Brown and Aaron Green. Two minutes into the game, they were already talking about Vincent Taylor because he made the first couple of tackles. They weren’t ready for him because he was a sophomore. It was a good deal.”
Taylor has improved steadily since then, consistently demonstrating a work ethic that reflects his upbringing.
“I’ve always told our two sons that you’ve got to work hard to get anywhere,” Victor Taylor Sr. said. “I’ve also told them to stay humble.”
Victor and Angela Taylor’s oldest son, Victor, graduated from Madison in 2011 and played defensive end for the Mavs. Victor Jr. and Vincent played on the Mavs’ varsity together in 2010.
"When we lived in New Orleans, we kept up with Texas high school football," Angela Taylor said. "We always wanted to move to Texas, but we weren't exactly sure where we wanted to move."
Vincent started playing football when he was 8, but sometimes had to sit out games because the opposing team didn't have a player big enough to match up against him.
"There were times he had to run around the park before a game to get his weight down, so he could play," Angela Taylor said.
Coach lauds Taylor's work ethic
Vincent doesn't have to worry about sitting out games these days, but he's still working hard to be in tip-top shape.
Miller praised Taylor for setting a good example for his teammates on and off the field.
“He’s got a very good work ethic,” Miller said. “This past offseason, he’s really taken on more of a leadership role, especially in the weight room.”
Taylor came close to committing to Baylor before he gave his nod to Oklahoma in the first week of June.
“I went up there and visited and liked it,” Taylor said. “I have a real good chance to start as a freshman, so that was a big reason why I chose Oklahoma State.”
Taylor also was swayed by two OSU players with whom he shares close ties, his cousin Josh Stewart, a wide receiver from Denton Guyer, and former Madison linebacker Kris Catlin.
“Just knowing that Kris Catlin and my cousin are up there made it easier for me,” Taylor said. “They’ve told me they’ll take care of me and help me with things I need to know.”
Madison favored to win 26-5A title
Born in New Orleans, Taylor said he takes pride in his roots but is happy to be living in San Antonio. He has a map of Louisiana tatooed on his right arm, with New Orleans highlighted.
“New Orleans always will have a special place in my heart, but I really like it here in San Antonio,” he said. “I also feel blessed to have the opportunity to play high school football in Texas, because I think it’s the best in the country.”
Madison, which advanced to the Class 5A Division I state semifinals last year and finished 10-5, is No. 17 in Texas Football’s 5A preseason Top 25 rankings.
Steele is the highest ranked area 5A school at No. 7, and Judson and Reagan are No. 19 and No. 22, respectively.
“I’m hoping to have a spectacular year, personally and team-wise,” Taylor said. “We’re all working hard to take that next step. We went to the semifinals last year and we want to go further this season.
Madison, which also features prolific senior running back Marquis Warford, is the favorite in District 26-5A.
“We’ve got a big target on our back,” Taylor said. “We’ll have to stay humble and stay mature. If we do that, we’ll be OK."