Tyrod Taylor stands alone in VT history
Taylor's impact on his teammates and coaches extends far beyond the huddle, yards beyond his jaw-dropping athletic ability that has drawn comparisons with Philadelphia Eagles and former Hokies quarterback Michael Vick.
(And yes, Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer said, those comparisons are legit.)
On the field, this is the season that Taylor has reached a peak, and had the Hokies not lost their first two games, more people probably would have realized it. Now, in a BCS bowl that will feature two of the nation's top quarterbacks, Taylor is in the shadow of Stanford's Andrew Luck and still feels he has something to prove to NFL scouts. But to those within the Hokies program, no other quarterback in the country compares.
"I can't put in a statement here today what Tyrod Taylor means to us now, what he's meant to us his whole time here," said Virginia Tech offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring. "You get a chance to see Tyrod on the field, but that's one part of what he means to this program and what he's meant to this program. But what he does in the locker room, what he does in the weight room, what he does in the hallway when nobody else is watching, I can't put into words what that means."
You can measure, though, what he's meant to Virginia Tech in the win column. Taylor has started 41 games and won 34 of them.
His improvement in the passing game this season has made him a more complete player -- so much so that Taylor has been given more freedom to call audibles at the line of scrimmage. As he prepares to play his final game for the Hokies in the Discover Orange Bowl, those in the program agree that regardless of the outcome, Taylor will leave behind a legacy as one of the greatest quarterbacks to come through the program.
"I'd hope that he would be remembered as one of the best to ever play here, right up there with Michael Vick," Hokies receiver Danny Coale said. "The amount of winning he's done, the numbers he's put up, the leadership he's provided, it's the best you can get. He's made everybody around him better, made this team better. He's been a tremendous leader for us throughout his career here."
After Virginia Tech's 0-2 start this season, Taylor stood in front of his teammates with the other seniors on the roster in a players-only meeting, and his mere presence assured them their season was not over.
"He wasn't mad, he wasn't upset; it was more of a quiet confidence, which kind of makes you realize that everything is all right," Coale said. "The leader of the team was behind us and didn't panic and believed in us. That's important, and it was an essential piece to that 11-game puzzle we put together."
Behind the leadership and play of Taylor, Virginia Tech accomplished something no other program in the FBS ever has -- an 11-game win streak after an 0-2 start. The Hokies became the first team to go undefeated in ACC play since Florida State in 2000, making Taylor the obvious choice for this year's ACC Player of the Year.
"To me," Beamer said, "he is right in every way."
Taylor has thrown for 2,521 yards and 23 touchdowns with only four interceptions. He also has run for 637 yards and five touchdowns. He'll graduate having set school records for career total offense, career passing yards, career rushing yards by a quarterback, career wins by a starting quarterback, career rushing touchdowns by a quarterback and touchdown passes in a season.
Whether he can translate that success to the NFL remains to be seen.
"I think I have something to prove every time I step on the field," he said. "Myself, it's not just about me when I'm out there on the football field, it's about the other 10 guys that's going to be with me. And this is a team sport, so I have to go out there and prepare myself to win like I do every game, put the team first and do what I have to do to win. Hopefully the NFL scouts will see that."
Stinespring said Taylor has nothing left to prove.
"I think he's made a statement about 13 weeks this year and in the weeks before and the year before," he said. "I think he makes a statement every time he steps on the field why he has a chance to continue playing, and it's not just his ability in this town. He wins quarterback games. In the end that's how we're all judged, the ability to have success on that field."
If that's the case, there's no question that Taylor already has cemented his legacy.
Not once but twice he was named the MVP of the ACC championship game, including this year, when he threw three touchdown passes and ran for a fourth. He is one of only two active quarterbacks in the FBS with 2,000 rushing and 6,000 career passing yards, the other being Nevada's Colin Kaepernick.
"I think you can compare it to Michael Vick," running back Darren Evans said. "He has so much of that electric-type feel around him. It's kind of weird because Ty is just a winner. He found ways to do things right and always come up on the top end of bad situations. I think that's how people look at it. In my opinion -- and I'm not all into Virginia Tech history -- but he's the best quarterback that I've been around. I just feel like he's the best quarterback Virginia Tech has probably seen, no matter how athletic Mike was. He's just a winner."
And that's how he'll be remembered at Virginia Tech regardless of what happens against Stanford.
Heather Dinich covers ACC college football for ESPN.com.
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