STATE COLLEGE — Whether on the playing field or in the classroom, Garrett Taylor’s actions ring louder than his words.
Penn State coach James Franklin’s observed Taylor’s ambition over the last four years, and Nittany Lions co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach Tim Banks believes Taylor’s leadership is as powerful as any hit he’s delivered on the field.
Taylor enters his redshirt senior season with high expectations and the respect of his teammates.
“It’s just something that comes with the age and my experience with how long I’ve been here,” Taylor said. “I’ve always been a guy who likes to lead by example, just in terms of my work ethic and how I prepare myself on and off the field. I just think I’ve kind of embraced that role a little bit more going into my last year.”
Taylor’s earned a degree in advertising and public relations last December. He’s scheduled to graduate with a second degree in telecommunications this December. He’s been named an Academic All-Big Ten on three occasions and he’s been selected to the Dean’s List twice.
“The thing I love about Garrett is he’s not a guy who just talks the talk, but he walks the walk,” Banks said.
Taylor brings experience and depth to Penn State’s secondary. He logged 12 starts last year and has appeared in 38 games during his career. Taylor capped his redshirt junior season with a career-high 10 tackles in Penn State’s Citrus Bowl matchup against Kentucky.
“In our secondary, GT (Garrett Taylor) has had a great summer,” Franklin said. “He looks unbelievable. He’s as lean and explosive and as fast as he’s been, and he obviously has tremendous experience.”
Banks said the Penn State coaching staff implores its players to adopt a combine mentality at all times, and not wait until they’re later in their playing careers. Taylor’s done more than pay lip service to Banks’ words – he’s embodied them.
“He’s a guy who has embraced it right now; he’s not waiting until senior year,” Banks said. “And you can see it in the way his body has changed. He’s heavier, but he’s lost weight. He’s a guy who is going to get enough sleep. He’s a guy who eats the right things. He’s a guy when he says he’s going to study film from this time to that time, he’s actually doing it. His behavior is actually in line with what his goals are.”
Taylor’s said he’s followed a strict diet this summer and has “eaten the healthiest I’ve eaten in my life.” In doing so, he’s brought his body fat down to seven percent and now sits at 6-feet and 200 pounds.
“We have a great weight coach in Coach (Dwight) Galt and all of our assistant coaches,” Taylor said. “So I’ve just followed that and made sure I’ve gotten all of my reps in, and doing a lot of extra stuff on the side – extra core work. A lot of stretching to make sure I stay flexible.”
Taylor played cornerback in high school at St. Christopher’s (Richmond, Va.) and was recruited by Penn State at the position. He transitioned to safety in college. He played his first collegiate snap in 2016 and logged his start in Penn State’s season opener against Appalachian State last year. Taylor’s persistence and devotion over the years have resonated with Banks and Taylor’s teammates.
“For us, in the room, he’s a guy they look to and understand that if you do it the right way, typically, good things happen,” Banks said. “He’s set the tone with his work ethic as an example. Garrett is a guy where nothing was given to him. He had to earn it. He was playing corner, moved to safety, and when his opportunity came, he took great advantage of it. A lot of it to me, I attribute to just his everyday approach. I knew exactly what I was going to get from him, not just physically, but from a mental preparation perspective. It paid dividends, and the young guys see that.”
Leadership was the theme of Franklin’s media day press conference on Saturday. He pointed to Taylor as one of the players he expects to provide that boost.
“Garrett Taylor obviously has played a lot of football and has earned everybody’s respect by how he’s gone about his business,” Franklin said.