Darrell Taylor took the field for rookie minicamp wearing a different number than the one he was assigned as a rookie.
A 2020 second-round pick, Taylor made the switch from 58 to 52 for a couple reasons, both of them meaningful in their own way. First and foremost, Taylor wanted to honor his mom, Peggy Tyler, who died of breast cancer when he was 16. Peggy wore No. 25 as a high school basketball player, and with that number unavailable for a defensive lineman or linebacker, he went with the next best choice, flipping the number to 52.
"My mom wore 25 when she was in high school, and she was really good at basketball, supposed to be All-American and all that stuff, but was scared to get on a plane," Taylor said. "So I wear 52 to represent her."
And in addition to that tribute to his late mother, Taylor also wanted to make a change because, quite frankly, his rookie year was one he'd rather forget. The only reason Taylor was on the field, eligible to participate in rookie minicamp, is that he missed his entire rookie season, the result of a leg injury sustained at the University of Tennessee that just never quite fully healed until the end of the season when he returned to practice the week of Seattle's Wild Card playoff game.
"I just kind of felt like last year was a lot, it was hard last year, so I changed my number because I didn't want to wear 58 anymore, because I didn't want it to be a representation of last year," he said. "So I thought 52 would be a perfect number to go with to represent my mother."
And in his new number, healthy and back on the practice field, Taylor soaked it all in on Friday, thrilled to be taking part in football activities again, even if it was a padless May workout primarily with rookies.
"It was it was pretty hard last year not being on the field, but I had my teammates helping me out—older guys just whispering in my ear every now and then, coaches talking to me," Taylor said. "So I stayed the course last year, just trying to be humble and trying to stay positive about what was going on. Just getting out here today was very exciting. Being out here with my new teammates and stuff, it was something or the books, and I'm excited and looking forward to the future, what's coming up next."
With Taylor healthy again as the Seahawks gear up for the 2021 season, he has a chance to play a big role on defense, even if a year later than he and the team might have hoped. In addition to potentially being a factor in the pass-rush rotation—the Seahawks drafted Taylor as a defensive end and still list him as that position on the roster—he'll also work at strongside linebacker, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Friday.
"He's an outside player for us—rush outside, outside linebacker, both jobs he's taking a look at… He did a lot (of outside linebacker) in college, he did a lot of dropping, did a lot of rushing. We liked him as a rusher first—we still do. But he's got all of the athleticism, he's a real natural athlete, really light on his feet. Burst explosion, (change of direction) is really good. So this is not going to be a challenge for him to learn the position. We need to see how he feels when we do mix him, dropping and rushing, knowing that we want to see him as an outside rusher as well in passing situation. So we're double teaching him, and he's just such a good-looking athlete, he looks like he can do whatever you need him to do, so we have no real restrictions or hesitation on his range of play."
The Seahawks have had several players dabble in that pass-rush/strongside linebacker dual role in the past, most notably Bruce Irvin. And it shouldn't be too much of an adjustment for Taylor, who played both outside linebacker and defensive end in Tennessee's 3-4 scheme.
"The SAM position is great," Taylor said. "I like the transition. I'm still going to be playing LEO (defensive end) as well, trying to be a versatile player. The SAM position requires a little more dropping, but we're trying to make the SAM a dominant player and just trying to help this defense be more dominant every year we get on that field… I played a lot of SAM linebacker at Tennessee in our 3-4 front, so it's not really new to me. Tennessee asked me to do a lot, and the Seahawks are asking me to do the same thing, and I can take the challenge, I'm ready."
And when Friday's brief minicamp practice came to an end, Taylor, who only had one week of practice during his entire rookie season, wasn't ready for the day to end.
"I honestly didn't want to get off the field, but we had to go lift and do all that stuff," he said. "I just wanted to soak it in because I hadn't been out here in a long time. It just felt really, really, really good to be out there. The sun, helmet, everything, it just felt good."
Seahawks rookies and signed undrafted free agents reported to VMAC for day one of rookie minicamp.