Football: Taylor named most improved receiver

By Max Sullivan
On May 5, 2014

Three weeks ago, Kyon Taylor woke up for practice and showed up with different colored socks on, one black, one white.

Consequently, he dropped six passes that morning.

"I literally just couldn't catch a ball," Taylor said. "They were convinced it was the black sock."

Later that day, Taylor was walking to the Field House when football head coach Sean McDonnell stopped him.

"Yo, what's your problem, man?" McDonnell barked.

Puzzled, Taylor asked him to clarify.

"What's up with you and these black socks?" McDonnell said. "You know you're not supposed to do that. Its bad luck."

Taylor isn't one to fret about black cats and broken mirrors, but the next day he made sure to wear two white socks to practice. Coincidently, he had the best practice out of anyone that day.

"I don't really get too much into that superstitious stuff," Taylor said, "but if they believe in it, then I'm definitely with it."

Saturday afternoon, McDonnell told that story to the football team's family members and friends during an awards ceremony  in Lundholm Gymnasium, the most improved player at each position being recognized. After telling the sock story, he called Taylor down to award him "Most Improved Wide Receiver."

"That's an honor," Taylor said. "I'm really glad."

When he first arrived this spring, Taylor had a lot to learn about the mental side of the game. He'd been on the team for two years, but the 15 spring practices the team held last month gave Taylor his first opportunity to play with quarterback Sean Goldrich and the starting offense. Trying to fit into what Goldrich called a complicated system, one in which the receiver routes change from week to week, Taylor struggled. He still hadn't made the full transition to the college level.

 "Just like anyone in this program, when you first come around, you don't really know what you're doing," Goldrich said. "You don't know plays, you don't know your routes that well, you don't know how to recognize defenses from his point of view, and you know, seeing that, he didn't know where to line up in certain situations."

"Coming from high school to college, you know, it's a lot different," wide receiver Jared Allison said. "You've got to catch the pace of the game, you have to use your mind a lot more."

Taylor also attributed his problems to time off from catching the football again, having been off since the Football Championship Subdivision semifinal game at North Dakota State. The team started spring practices on April 1. 

"When you come off of not touching a football for however many weeks that is," Taylor said. "When you come back, you end up kind of being a little rusty."

Things didn't stay sour for Taylor, though. Soon, he was having days like the one he had after his sock incident. His coaches and teammates took notice.

"At first he was just getting by a little bit, and now he's starting to really figure out the offense," Allison said. "He's starting to make plays. Just what we need."

Goldrich hit Taylor for a 22-yard touchdown pass in the Blue-White game, putting a cap on a successful spring for the sophomore. From what the quarterback sees, Taylor has accelerated his development as a wide receiver. He now lines up in the right spots and recognizes the defense's tendencies- just the improvement Taylor needed to compliment his natural ability.

"Obviously, he can make a play," Goldrich said. "He goes up and gets the ball, which is obviously is the first step to being a good receiver."

Days like the "K.T. sock incident" have taught the wideout how to shake off dropped passes and bad days quickly. A year ago, he might not have been able to rebound from a bad practice like that with a phenomenal one the next day.

"He was able to let things go a lot quicker," McDonnell said of Taylor. "Whether it was a dropped pass, missed assignment or criticism from the coach, he didn't get caught up with it and all the stuff, and was boom, we're on to the next play."

"In this program, that's probably the biggest thing," Taylor said about having a short memory. "Really being able to take criticism for what it is and just constructive or whether it's just mean, you know? Take it, make a positive out of it, because at the end of the day, people are going to congratulate you when its due. People are going to let you know when you're messing up, and they don't care about how they say it. You just have to take it, you know, get the positive."

With senior receiver Justin Mello graduating this year, the team will need their younger receivers to step up next fall and pick up the slack. Mello caught 73 passes and led the team in receiving yards with 1,038.

"[As] a young kid coming in, we knew [Taylor] was explosive, we knew he had talent, but, you know, he wasn't really familiar with the system," Goldrich said. "From day one to where he is now, it's awesome to see what he's come to and the type of player he's turning into, and it's going to be good if we can stay on him, get him up here this summer, working out and we keep him repping the plays, I think he has the potential to be a great player for us here."

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