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VT Pro Day
Defensive tackle Demetrius Taylor (5-11 5/8, 290) impressed scouts with his strength, as he put up 225 pounds 35 times on the bench press. Earlier in the week he put up 280 pounds 22 times.
Hokies' Demetrius Taylor: Power player in the weight room
By Kyle Tucker
The (Norfolk) Virginian-Pilot
BLACKSBURG -- Demetrius Taylor's brick-like body is thick with muscle.
His long, winding career as a Virginia Tech football player is thick with irony.
When the Hokies held their second full scrimmage of spring practice on Saturday, Taylor trotted out with the first-team defense, as a tackle. That's right, the guy who was once a star running back and linebacker in high school is now a fifth-year senior battling to become one of the smallest starting defensive tackles at Tech in the modern era.
Relative to most others at his position -- take 6-foot-2, 308-pound teammate Cordarrow Thompson, for example -- Taylor's 6-foot, 260-pound frame looks little.
There's the irony: It has been a long, long time since anyone called Taylor small. His father, also named Demetrius, remembers frequent inquiries from his son's preschool teachers: Is this little fella lifting weights?
"He was just always built," said the elder Taylor. "He was a ball of muscle even when he was a baby."
Then Taylor got to high school and fell in love with weightlifting. He became a gym junkie. His natural physique exploded.
Taylor's classmates often asked if he was on steroids.
"He'd just laugh," said his father. "No, he'd tell them, that's just what hard work does for you."
His obsession with building up his body only grew when he arrived at Tech and began working with strength coach, Mike Gentry. Soon, Taylor was Tech's most powerful player.
He ranks first or second on the team in the power clean (360 pounds), push jerk (400), bench press (430) and back squat (600). Those numbers did not, however, transfer immediately to the field.
During Taylor's first two seasons at Tech, including a redshirt year in 2005, he was a hulking linebacker.
And a slow one.
"When I'd come up and see him, I was amazed how much bigger he was than the other linebackers," said Chris DeWitt, Taylor's coach at Kellem High School in Virginia Beach. "But he was sort of stiff compared to the others."
Taylor struggled in pass coverage, which is an essential responsibility for a linebacker in coordinator Bud Foster's smothering defense. Taylor knew he couldn't cut it, so he asked to move to defensive end.
"Everybody gets a little more athletic as they get closer to the ball," Hokies defensive line coach Charley Wiles said. "Once he moved, we thought he was adequate at end."
But Tech's defense isn't built on "adequate." So, despite superior strength, Taylor played little. He managed four total tackles in his first two seasons.
"I was wondering if I could ever play at this level," Taylor admits. "I felt like a nobody."
Then, the unthinkable happened. The Hokies lost their top three defensive tackles after the 2007 season and were desperate for depth at the position. They turned to Taylor, by then 45 pounds heavier than his high school days.
The biggest guy in the weight room was suddenly the smallest guy at his position. While it seemed odd, there was something primal about the tackle spot that appealed to Taylor.
"At tackle, there's a lot less to think about. You can just go play," he said. "Just know your assignment and go. Attack. That's how I played in high school, and I wanted to get back to it.
"That's how I lift. You either push the weight up, or it dominates you. You either move the offensive lineman, or he moves you."
Taylor emerged as Tech's top backup at tackle last season. While slowed significantly by a foot injury, he recorded a career-best 12 tackles.
He and the Hokies are expecting much more out of his senior season. John Graves, a starting tackle last fall, is spending the spring at end, mostly to give him experience at that perilously thin position for Tech.
But come fall, Graves will reclaim the spot Taylor is manning with the first-string defense. That will leave Taylor and Thompson to fight for the other starting job.
"If we played today, I'd start Demetrius," Wiles said. "Where he might've been lost a little at linebacker, a little slow at end, he's really an athletic tackle. And you notice him out there. He has had a great spring, and he's going to be a big factor this season."
Taylor is ready to be big again.
Most of the offensive lineman he'll face are at least three inches taller and 40 pounds heavier than he. But for a guy who conquered his sociology degree in three years -- a second degree in psychology is coming in December -- that's just another challenge. Another bar to push.
"I can get under their pads, get leverage," he said. "I'm too strong to let them just throw me around, and I'm faster than them. It's amazing, really. I never could've imagined being a defensive tackle. But it kind of makes sense.
"I really have to thank Coach Wiles and Coach Foster for thinking I could do it and giving me a chance. They found me a place to play. That's all I wanted."
Hokies' Taylor, Present and Future Enforcer
By Mark Viera
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
BLACKSBURG, Va., Sept. 28 -- On the football field, Demetrius Taylor wears shoulder pads and a helmet with a VT logo. In his future occupation, his equipment might consist of a handgun and an FBI badge.
Taylor is a defensive tackle at Virginia Tech. But unlike his teammates who dream of NFL careers or jobs in the private sector when they leave Blacksburg, Taylor wants to work as either an agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation or as an officer with the Federal Air Marshal Service.
Taylor was inspired to go into law enforcement after the 2007 shootings at Virginia Tech and has taken steps toward accomplishing that goal. He has earned a degree in sociology with a concentration in crime and deviance (he is now working toward a psychology degree) and has completed a summer internship with the New Jersey State Police.
"Playing football your whole life, you get accustomed to the lifestyle of having something to do all the time," Taylor said. "Not just sitting behind a desk but actually being active with your time. I felt like either being an FBI agent or an air marshal would allow me to do that after football."
For now, though, it is all about football. Taylor, a fifth-year senior, made his first career start Saturday in the Hokies' 31-7 win over Miami. Playing in place of John Graves, who sprained his right ankle against Nebraska on Sept. 19, Taylor made one tackle as Virginia Tech stifled Miami's potent offense and harassed quarterback Jacory Harris with blitzes.
Incidentally, Graves also has aspirations of working in law enforcement, perhaps for the FBI. Taylor said they have joked that "five or 10 years down the road, we're going to be partners."
Charley Wiles, the Hokies' defensive line coach, said Graves and Taylor would fit in as members of a law-enforcement unit because they are "two team-oriented guys. They're not 'me' guys. They want to do what's right for the team."
For Taylor, he said his career path was something that "runs in the veins." Both of Taylor's grandfathers served during the Vietnam War. Taylor's father, Demetrius Sr., was a 21-year Navy veteran as a medical services provider.
"I always shared with him what it meant to me to take care of the patients and treat them," Demetrius Sr., who served in Kuwait during Operation Desert Storm, said in a telephone interview. "That was instilled in Demetrius as far as helping out and serving the country."
But Taylor's biggest motivation to go into law enforcement came on April 16, 2007, when a Virginia Tech student fatally shot 32 people and himself in the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.
On that day, Taylor said, he sat in a building nearby Norris Hall, where 30 people were killed. From his classroom, Taylor saw students running from the nearby building as a unit of police officers entered.
"They were running for their lives, and I've never seen anything like that," Taylor said. "But seeing the cops rush in, just to see that kind of courage and that kind of camaraderie among the officers, that's what I go through now in football, to a lesser degree."
There have been former Virginia Tech football players who went into law enforcement. Perhaps the most notable is Todd Meade, a letterman on the offensive line from 1989 to 1991 who now works for the Secret Service.
Lt. Robert Catullo of the New Jersey State Police, who worked with Taylor during an internship last summer, said there was a correlation between football and police work.
"If you talk about the SWAT team, it's choreographed," Catullo said in a telephone interview. "What's the dwelling? How are we going in? What method are we going to use? There's a lot of times we're making up a game plan. The camaraderie is always there. It's kind of like going out on the football field; you expect the person next to you to do their job."
Taylor worked at the New Jersey State Police Troop B headquarters. The station, based in Totowa, serves the northern part of the state in handling accident investigations, drunken driving reports and evaluations of police chases.
Although much of what Taylor did was gofer work, he had learning experiences. He was taught the basics of investigating a car accident by looking at scratch marks on the vehicle, how it rolled or how the windshield was broken in. He also watched as SWAT teams practiced entering buildings and repelling from helicopters at a training facility.
"He was a good kid," Catullo said, "and never complained no matter what he had to do."
Before pursuing a second degree, Taylor specialized his academic focus. As part of his concentration for his sociology major, he could take classes such as deviant behavior (sociology 2404), criminology (sociology 3414) or juvenile delinquency (sociology 3424).
Now, Taylor said, he is preparing his application to become an air marshal and has also been in touch with some people he knows at the FBI. If accepted to either, he expects to go through a training program somewhere in the country. But after Virginia Tech, he said, the next step is still somewhat uncertain in this particularly unique line of work.
"As far as preparing yourself, you can't really prepare," Taylor said. "There's a lot in the FBI that the general public doesn't know about."