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Unusual Position Switch Pays Off for Taylor

Posted Jul 2, 2010

Though he looks the part, rookie Rendrick Taylor wasn't always a fullback, playing three college seasons at wide receiver before making that unusual position switch


You often hear of rookies entering the NFL and changing positions at the behest of their new employers.

Sometimes it's a tackle moving inside to guard, or a corner being a better fit at safety or even the occasional switch from quarterback to wide receiver. These moves are made because a player's physical traits are deemed to be a better fit in another role, and the new position is usually fairly similar to the old.

But wide receiver to fullback? For obvious reasons, you don't see that one very often.

Speed, agility, quickness, crisp routes and fingertip catches to...brutal blocks, anonymous dirty work and physical, smash-mouth football?

That's exactly the unusual transition Tampa Bay Buccaneers fullback Rendrick Taylor made while in college at Clemson, and somehow it stuck. In fact, Taylor's versatility and strong work ethic have earned him an invite to training camp with the Buccaneers, and with that comes a shot at a real roster spot.

Taylor set foot on Clemson's campus as a highly-touted wide receiver and he played three seasons at that position, but injury forced him to redshirt his fourth year at Clemson. The time spent away from the field led to a change, one that actually fit his newly-chiseled physique. When he returned for his senior season, he was a receiver no more.

"I tore my hamstring and wasn't able to run a lot, so I was just lifting and put on a couple pounds, so I had to move to tight end and fullback," Taylor said. "It was just going in and adjusting my mentality. You're used to playing receiver and doing a lot of stop-blocking, then you've got to go down to fullback and tight end to go against defensive ends and linebackers. So it's just a change of mentality. I'm a big guy, they're big guys, so it's just a matter of who's more physical."

Big guy is an understatement. It's hard to imagine the 6-2, 265-pound Taylor ever lining up at wideout against a 5-11, 185-pound cornerback, but those days are past anyway. His days are now spent stonewalling oncoming rushers and plowing holes for his ball-carrying teammates.

While the days of making acrobatic catches and speedy dashes through the secondary on the way to the end zone might be behind him - maybe - Taylor grins from ear-to-ear when asked if he's enjoying life as a fullback.

"I have fun playing fullback," Taylor said. "I'm out here learning every day each time we come to practice. Right now I'm just waiting for my opportunity to put the pads on and go show people that I can be physical and that I am physical. I plan on having fun and I love the position so far."

In fact, his previous experience and skill set from his wide receiver days have allowed the Bucs to utilize Taylor in certain passing plays, something only a small subset of fullbacks usually get involved in.

"I'm able to move out and go in motion and run routes from the fullback position, so it's good right now," Taylor said. "I'm still using some of those wide receiver skills."

Unfortunately, Taylor's injury battles and the unique position change before a pivotal senior season might have impacted his draft stock a bit. Despite the skills - speed, hands, size and more - that allowed him to succeed at two vastly different positions, Taylor went undrafted and only came to Tampa on a tryout basis.

"I was hoping that I would get drafted in the late rounds with some of my attributes, but I came here as a tryout and it's still working out," Taylor said. "I'm still getting a chance to live out my dream. Either way I'm still grateful for everything that's happened.

"I was very confident [coming to rookie camp.] I was excited. It was almost as if I did get drafted. It still was an opportunity. Even if you're drafted, you still have to come out and prove yourself, and that's one thing that I always keep in mind. No matter if it's a tryout, you're still getting a chance to prove yourself and showcase your talent. I was enthusiastic, I was excited, and I knew that I had an opportunity."

Taylor also has the opportunity to learn from a backfield companion who has made the switch to fullback at times - running back Earnest Graham. While Graham's transition came from a more closely related position, Taylor has still taken advantage of the chance to pick the brain of another versatile Buccaneer.

"[Working with Graham] has helped me out a lot," Taylor said. "He's always going through the plays before we come out on the field, in the film room and at meeting time. And [Running Backs] Coach [Steve] Logan is a great coach. He's simplified things real well, so it's been real easy to learn because they make it where you can go out and be successful."

With his re-tooled physique, hardworking mentality, and ever-present enthusiasm, Taylor has already made an unlikely transition from wide receiver to fullback. Now with training camp drawing ever closer, he's trying to make yet another improbable jump - from undrafted rookie free agent to earning a spot on the 53-man roster.

"I'm very excited," Taylor said. "I'm just waiting to come out here the first day of training camp, go full-speed, be physical, make a minimum of mistakes or no mistakes, and just go out and have fun and play football."