Gabe Taylor, one of the top safety prospects in the class of 2020, will make his collegiate debut when the Rice Owls kick off their 2020 season Saturday against Middle Tennessee. The 19-year-old freshman has mighty big shoes to fill carrying on the legacy of his late brother Sean Taylor, one of the most dominant defensive backs in football during his time with Washington.
“Oh, there’s for sure pressure right now,” says Taylor, who was lightly recruited out of Gulliver Prep, only receiving scholarship offers from a handful of schools including Rice, Akron, Bryant, Coastal Carolina and Jackson State. “I always wanted pressure my whole life. I’m not going to shy away from it.”
Taylor played just a single season of high school football, choosing to focus on basketball his first three years at Gulliver Prep in Pinecrest, Florida, a Miami suburb. That lone season was all he needed to make a lasting impression with the 5’10,” 180-pound safety logging 10 interceptions including five pick-sixes as a senior in 2019.
The former three-star recruit has spent most his life living in his brother’s shadow—he was only six when the elder Sean was murdered at his home in 2007. Taylor played his high school games at Sean Taylor Memorial Field and, if things pan out at Rice, perhaps he’ll one day drive down Sean Taylor Road (just outside FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland) as a member of the Washington Football Team.
“I love the fans in Washington,” said Taylor, appreciative of all the team has done to honor his brother’s memory. “They always show love. They say they want me to come play for them. Hopefully that comes one year.”
A self-described ball-hawk, Taylor has only been in Houston a short time, but his coaches at Rice are already impressed with his development. “The ball loves him,” head coach Mike Bloomgren raved, alluding to Taylor’s knack for forcing turnovers. “His anticipation of things is out of sight.”
Taylor has yet to play a collegiate snap, though that didn’t stop him from going viral earlier this month when he laid out one of him teammates with a monster hit. “When it surfaced online, it had to make people realize, ‘Yep, that probably is Sean’s little brother,’” Bloomgren told Jake Russell of the Washington Post.
A two-time All-Pro selection, Sean was on a Hall-of-Fame trajectory before his tragic death at 24, compiling career totals of 305 tackles, 12 interceptions and eight forced fumbles over 55 games including 53 starts for Washington from 2004-07. Drafted fifth overall in 2004, Taylor also won a National Championship and was honored as Big East Defensive Player of the Year while attending the University of Miami.