NORMAN â€” Against Colorado, Oklahomaâ€™s Adrian Taylor found joy in a place that other defensive tackles loathe.
For the first time all season, Taylor finally got double teamed.
Said linebacker Travis Lewis: â€œOut there on the field with him he was like, â€˜Theyâ€™re double teaming me! Theyâ€™re double teaming me!â€™â€
â€œYou complain about double teams all the time,â€ Taylor said. â€œBut right now, I want the double team, if that makes sense.
â€œShows how far Iâ€™ve come.â€
This has been a trying senior season for Taylor, who 10 months ago at the Sun Bowl suffered one of the most gruesome injuries in Sooner history. A broken ankle so ghastly, CBS refused to televise the replay as Taylor was carted off the field.
But defying the odds, Taylor returned to the field at the beginning of this season. And has been gutting it out ever since. Despite running with a limp. Despite playing with pain. Despite not being the player he was last season; and the player he was on the cusp of becoming pre-injury.
â€œOf course, thereâ€™s been some physical things there, but being honest, the hardest part for me has been the mental aspect of it,â€ Taylor said. â€œNot to sound cocky, but I thought I had a pretty good year last year, and I was expecting to have an even bigger year this year. This injury has hindered me.
â€œNot being what Iâ€™m used to being and being even better this year has been hard for me.â€
Who knows where the Sooner defense might be this season with a healthy Taylor?
At times, due also in part to inexperience and other injuries up front, the OU defense has struggled defending the middle of the line of scrimmage, a place where Taylor and Gerald McCoy dominated opponents last season while playing almost every snap.
Replacing McCoy was going to be impossible, but the Sooners surely would have been stronger with Taylor firing away at full strength.
Then again, who knows where the defense would be this season without Taylor at all?
Shortly after the injury, some doctors cautioned it could be two years before Taylor would be able to walk normal again. And the week leading up to the opener, some still advised Taylor redshirting might be the best option for him. Take another year to heal the ankle. Another year to get back into playing shape. Another year to restore his NFL Draft stock.
For Taylor, that was no option.
â€œI was willing to do whatever my brothers needed me to do, because I know theyâ€™d do the same for me,â€ Taylor said. â€œIâ€™m not a quitter. I wasnâ€™t raised to be a quitter. I knew I wasnâ€™t going to come out the first game and play 60 snaps. And when I first got out there I got pushed around and I wasnâ€™t used to that.
â€œBut Iâ€™m proud Iâ€™ve been able to fight through it to be part of this great team.â€
Taylor still has dreams of playing in the NFL. But at the moment, itâ€™s not something he dwells on. Doesnâ€™t worry where his draft stock might be had he not gotten hurt. Doesnâ€™t worry about where it is now.
â€œMy goal right now is to help this team, help my family, my brothers, to do the best we can and win as many games as we can and whatever championships we can,â€ Taylor said. â€œThatâ€™s my goal. Everybody as a young kid wants to go to the NFL. Iâ€™ll worry about me and going to the NFL when this season is over.â€
While heâ€™s on his way, Taylor is not yet the player he was last season. But in many ways, heâ€™s meant every bit as much to the team. Even if only at 80 percent. Even for only 30 plays a game.
Because of the leadership heâ€™s brought. And the inspiration heâ€™s provided.
â€œHeâ€™s still really battling. I can tell heâ€™s in a lot of pain when heâ€™s out there playing,â€ said safety Quinton Carter. â€œBut he really puts it to the side and gives his all for the team.
â€œWhen a guy puts himself aside to try and help the team ... when you see a guy doing that you canâ€™t help but think, â€˜How can I tap out when heâ€™s going through the pain and putting up with that and is still giving his all?â€™â€
Taylor continues to give it all. He feels better every week. Plays better every week.
And now, heâ€™s even getting double-teamed again.
â€œIâ€™m gaining steam,â€ he said. â€œIf it continues like this every week, I might be full power before the end of the season.
â€œItâ€™s a blessing to have come this far this fast.â€