January 25, 2013

Stanford's Stepfan Taylor creating an NFL buzz

Ex-Mansfield High star Stepfan Taylor will play in Senior Bowl.

MOBILE, Ala. -- In four years at Stanford, Stepfan Taylor got to play with a No. 1 NFL Draft pick and for a future Super Bowl coach.

Now that's what you call being around the right people.

"Just being around some guys, it gets in you," he said. "It's kind of osmosis."

Maybe it will help boost his stock come draft time for the former Mansfield High School running back. Coming from the same university as Andrew Luck -- the No. 1 pick in last year's draft who took the Indianapolis Colts to the playoffs as a rookie quarterback -- and Jim Harbaugh -- the former Stanford coach who now has the San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl -- can't hurt, can it?

"That's a credit to the coaching and the type of players Stanford recruits," Taylor said this week as he got ready to play in today's Senior Bowl. "They set the standards in the locker room and on the field. They go recruit players that they know are going to work with our system. A lot of people can't do our system. You've got to be willing to play tough football and team football.

"And you can't always go out and find players like that."

Not that Taylor needs the help.

Many draft experts have him among the top five running backs available in the draft, and he had a good week of workouts at the Senior Bowl.

He leaves Stanford as its career leader in rushing yards (4,300), touchdowns (45) and 100-yard games (21).

He was the Rose Bowl offensive player of the game in the Cardinal's 20-14 victory over Wisconsin four weeks ago.

"He was always coming up when you needed him," said Stanford linebacker Chase Thomas, also at the Senior Bowl. "He fights for those extra yards, those extra inches. When the guys block a play for three yards, he gets 10. When they block it for 10, he usually gets a touchdown. He's a hard runner. He's got great vision. Probably the best pass-blocking back that I've gone against. He's got all the tools."

As a senior playing for a Stanford team without Luck, Taylor got to showcase those tools last season.

"We had a running-back rotation for my sophomore and junior year," he said. "This year, I was able to show a little bit more of what I can do -- pass protection, catching the ball, things like that. We were put in a situation where Andrew's gone, teams are going to stack the box, and we were still able to overcome that. That's due to coaching and coachability."

It also meant more carries for Taylor's 5-foot-9 frame. He measured in at the Senior Bowl 2 inches shorter than the listed 5-11. But he is a muscle-packed 216 pounds.

"I felt like, honestly, after the games, if I had 30 touches, it felt like 19, it felt like 18," he said. "After the game, I'm really not that beat up or anything, knock on wood. I tried to do a good job of not taking big shots and knowing when to get down, even though I'm still fighting for extra yards."

So label him a bruiser. Call him short. Say whatever. Taylor has a track record to fall back on, plus a background with two of the NFL's brightest names.

"It was kind of like that in high school as well," he said. "They labeled me as a big bruising back and things like that. I know I'm not as flashy as a lot of other guys, but I'm going to go out there and produce for the team. However I can do that, I'm going to try to find a way to do that. However they want to label me, they can label me. I'm going to try to go out there and play my game."

Carlos Mendez, 817-390-7760

Twitter @calexmendez

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