Division I universities commonly recruit athletes from Tyler Junior College. Ryan Taylor, who this season is a senior offensive lineman for the UCLA Bruins, was recruited after playing for the Apaches.
“When I became the head football coach in the spring of ‘07, Ryan Taylor had just come on campus. He didn’t have a scholarship, and was almost what you’d consider as a walk-on from Denison. He came in and did a really good job,” said Head Coach Danny Palmer.
In the fall of ‘07, Taylor started as center and guard, but he wasn’t big enough for a lineman at the time, weighing in around 270 to 260 pounds. He soon after earned a scholarship at TJC, playing on the ‘08 team, keeping a level head and maintaining his grades, Palmer recalled.
“Frank Gansz, who I coached with in Houston, was at UCLA and agreed to sign Ryan,” he said.
Taylor became a stronger, bigger and better player, taking every snap at center for both the first and second team for three days in the hot weather. According to Palmer, this was a “big deal.”
“I admired his work ethic during the spring and fall of ‘07. He was a good football player, exemplifying himself as the number one team player I’ve seen in the four years I’ve been coaching here at TJC,” said Palmer. “There is no doubt about it.”
Athletic Director and Head Football Coach Cody White at Denison High School described Taylor, as “extremely in-a-going.”
“He was a lot of fun to work with, playing tackle and defensive end. We also played three rounds deep his senior year of high school, being district champions in his junior year as well.
He was vary driven and athletic for his size,” White said. In high school, Taylor was the best offensive lineman in the district.
“He was extraordinary, and I thought he was a great defensive player when he attend Denison, but UCLA wasn’t where we expected him to play in college,” White said. “We won three district titles one year with the help of Ryan. We weren’t extremely talented, but we kind of scrapped our way through… He was a part of a transition offensively that year and made playing a lot easier,” he said.
Despite Taylor’s work ethic and determination playing football, it wasn’t until TJC that he was presented with a chance to play on the university level.
“Taylor was an interesting story. He was one of those kids who surprisingly didn’t get recruited vary hard. “The only schools who attempted to sign him were some Division II schools like Texas A&M Commerce and South Eastern,” White said.
The coaches at Denison were baffled that universities didn’t line up at Taylor’s door in pursuit of a signing. White remembers talking with Taylor about possibly attending a junior college, in which he could have another shot at a re-recruit, soon after he became a part of the Apache football team.
Ryan Mahon, associate head coach, explained some of the things that Division I universities look for before signing a player.
“What players do in the classroom plays a big part in the process. Also, athletes who come into a program mid-year, meaning in the spring, make themselves into a commodity,” he said adding later, “that talent level is a huge thing to keep in mind.”
Mahon believes in the Apaches and looks to future players to be just as successful.
“There’s no question, that there is talent in this year’s football team. Some of the guys upfront are getting a lot of recruitment, a lot of guys across the board, to be honest,” he said.
Mahon explained that TJC has a way of getting good athletes, and because of a little luck and skill, students go on to university opportunities and a solid career. “It’s amazing, but not surprising,” Mahon said.