His childhood meant attempting to keep up with Sean as their father, Pete Taylor, put them through a rigorous training regimen that included running hills and highways in Miami. Gabe would master those drills as he got older.
It meant, as Gabe recalled, the big brother — 18 years his senior — coming to the rescue after someone at a party dunked on a basketball hoop, causing it to fall down on Gabe. It meant Sean handing Gabe the football seconds after scoring on a fumble return in Washington’s last playoff victory in 2006.
“That’s when all the pressure came to me [to play] football,” Gabe says. “So I had to make a name for myself.”
Taylor has done just that. The child who idolized his larger-than-life brother is now a hard-hitting, ball-hawking safety set to make his collegiate debut for Rice on Saturday afternoon when the Owls host Middle Tennessee.
‘No way we’re getting this kid’
Taylor took a hiatus from football during his first three years at Miami’s Gulliver Prep to focus on basketball. Years of pleading from the school’s football coaches eventually worked. Taylor returned to the gridiron, playing his senior season on Sean Taylor Memorial Field. In his first year of football since youth league, little brother produced. Taylor intercepted 10 passes in 12 games for the Raiders, returning five for touchdowns.
Rice defensive line coach Cedric Calhoun had been recruiting high school players in South Florida for years. When he got a glimpse of this one-year, playmaking prodigy, he alerted his fellow coaches. The Owls staff visited Gulliver Prep to watch film in December. Taylor stood out immediately.
“I remember as we started to watch him, our wide receivers coach Mike Kershaw goes, ‘This is a guy that’s different than anything we have,’” Rice Head Coach Mike Bloomgren recalled. “You can’t help but watch the video. It doesn’t take long to see that the ball likes Gabe Taylor, like he’s always around it. And somehow it ends up in his hands very often.”
“He just popped off the tape in his ability to create turnovers,” Rice defensive coordinator and safeties coach Brian Smith said. “He was just making real instinctive plays, just doing things that you can’t coach. … I thought it was a no-brainer.”
Gulliver Prep Coach Earl Sims is effusive in his praise of Taylor, calling his former safety a “playmaker in every phase. And if there’s a scouting report against him, it should read: Find him. He’s the first person you find. See if he got off the plane.”
“He’s cerebral, he’s physical,” Sims said. “He plays with a mentality that is from the old school and he’s committed. You get it all. He’s kind of like a coach on the field. It’s like he’s been there before.
“We’ve had a lot of great players come through Gulliver Prep but he’s on another level.”
Despite the lack of game tape, Smith was “shocked” that Taylor’s senior-year production didn’t generate more interest from