May 25, 2013

Stepfan Taylor still has some work to do before beginning his NFL career

The former Mansfield running back graduates from Stanford on June 16 and studies the Cardinals’ playbook from afar.

Stepfan Taylor is hitting the books hard. If he isn’t in his genetics textbook, he’s in his playbook.

He also works out every day, leaving precious few hours of sleep.

“It’s definitely time consuming,” Taylor said in a phone interview.

The Mansfield product, a fifth-round pick of the Arizona Cardinals, is in his final class at Stanford. He graduates June 16 with a degree in information science and technology in society.

“I’m very proud of that,” Taylor said. “It was one of the best decisions in my life to come to this school, and to be able to get a degree from Stanford speaks a ton. It’s one of the top schools in the world, and it’ll set up my life for after football.”

NFL rules prohibit Taylor from participating in the Cardinals’ organized team activities, because Stanford’s final exams don’t end until June 12. So he is in Palo Alto, trying to learn the terminology from afar.

The Cardinals’ offense is similar to the Cardinal offense he started in for three seasons.

“Some words are different,” said Taylor, who signed a four-year, $2.4 million deal that includes $206,900 in guarantees. “I’m definitely looking at the notes I took from when I was down there [for the rookie minicamp], just drawing up the plays and trying to get a full picture of the concepts and trying to be as prepared as I can since I’m not down there in OTAs.”

Taylor rushed for a school-record 4,300 yards, and he had 97 receptions and 45 touchdowns in his career. But his speed — he ran a 4.70 at the combine and a 4.64 at his Pro Day — kept him from going higher in the draft.

“It wasn’t surprising,” Taylor said. “It’s a waiting game. I was hoping for the best, expecting the worst. But I’m not going to let that judge my game, because I’m confident enough in my ability. I just needed to get in, and after that, everybody is on the same page.

“It definitely didn’t bother me. All it does is add a chip on your shoulder, more motivation.”

The Cardinals could use the help. They ranked 32nd in rushing last season, and their leading rusher, LaRod Stephens-Howling, had only 356 yards and was outrushed by four NFL quarterbacks.

“The first goal is just making the team and getting on the field someway,” Taylor said. “The starting job is the next goal.”

Hughes starts over

Jerry Hughes is like a rookie all over again. Traded from the Colts to the Bills on April 29, Hughes is learning a new city, new teammates and a new playbook.

“It’s still kind of new,” the former TCU standout said in a phone interview. “Everybody has been great. We’ve been so busy working in the OTAs, getting comfortable in the new defense.”

Hughes was deemed “the elusive third pass rusher” by then-general manager Bill Polian when the Colts made Hughes the 31st overall pick in 2010. Hughes, though, played little his first two seasons, mostly on special teams. The new coaching staff gave him more defensive plays last season, including six starts, and Hughes made 41 tackles and four sacks.

“When I first got up there, I didn’t really get the opportunity to play,” Hughes said. “You don’t want to be a first-round pick of a team, and then have to ask the coach, ‘Where do you see me fitting in?’ and they can’t really give you a straight answer. It was just a shaky start up there. The new guys gave me a chance to go out there and play last year, and I was able to get on the field and actually get my feet wet, which is a great experience. Sitting on the sideline and watching the game vs. playing, it’s way better to be out there on the field.”

Hughes will work at both outside spots for defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, and he likely will be used as a pass-rusher in sub packages. The player the Bills traded, Kelvin Sheppard, was a middle linebacker.

Phil Taylor helps West

Phil Taylor has never been to West, and he spent only two seasons at Baylor. But the fertilizer plant explosion there hit close to home.

The Cleveland Browns defensive lineman, a first-round pick in 2011, refers to his former BU teammates as “family.”

So it felt like the right thing for him to do to help the victims of West.

“West is so close to Waco, they are part of the Baylor community, too,” Taylor said in a phone interview. “I want them to know we’re supporting them, and we’re going to help them out as much as we can.”

Taylor said he will visit West this summer. The explosion last month killed 15, injured 200 and inflicted $100 million in property damage.

But with the story lost in the national headlines that have followed, Taylor is trying to raise awareness as well as money through his foundation, TaylorMade98. He is using social and mainstream media in a campaign to market “We are West, TX” T-shirts that feature a bear wearing a green-and-gold West letterman’s jacket.

Several hundred shirts already have been sold at $25 a piece, with all proceeds going to the families of the victims. Taylor’s goal is to raise $100,000.

Current teammates, including Brandon Weeden, as well as former teammates, including Robert Griffin III, are wearing the shirts.

Shirts can be purchased at, and Taylor is encouraging fans wearing the shirts to tweet pictures with the hashtag #WeAreWestTX to his Twitter account, @PhilTaylor98

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