The Great Motivator for
every football player who has ever lived is always waiting just a few
yards away: the bench.
Throughout an accolades-filled gridiron career, including a stellar stint at Plymouth High School, Taylor Fox was a motivator -- not a player who needed to be motivated.
And the high-energy defensive end was never benched -- until a mid-season game against Olivet College last fall during Fox's junior season.
"I started the first five games of the season at defensive end and played pretty well," Fox recalled. "But the team wasn't winning, so the coach decided to start seniors in the sixth game. As a result, I got benched."
A few plays into the
game, an injury forced Fox's replacement to the bench. Subsequently,
Fox entered the game with a refreshing new perspective on playing time.
"I wanted to prove I belonged out there and that I deserved to have my spot back," he said, "I ended up having the best game of my life. I put a ton of pressure on the quarterback, got a sack and a bunch of tackles."
BETTER WITH AGE
Fox's career at Hope has been a study in perseverance. After playing on the Flying Dutchmen's junior-varsity squad the first half of his freshman season, he scaled the depth charts like a climber scales Mt. Everest -- nice and steady.
"One of the things about Division III football was that the guys who aren't on the varsity can play a junior varsity schedule," said Fox. "I wanted a chance to play football after high school and see where I stood.
"I started my first five games on the JV team before I was promoted to the varsity. The only bad thing was that I was the back-up for Matt Rugenstein, who was an All-American man-child."
Fox's first game experience came in, of all things, a Division III playoff game against eventual champion Mount Union.
"I only played about five minutes, but I learned how tough Division III football is. I was going up against guys that weighed 50, 60 or 70 pounds more than I did and they weren't just big, they were very strong."
Fox earned a spot on the varsity squad his sophomore season, but was relegated to a back-up role behind Rugenstein. However, when the All-American was injured early in the season, Fox became the starter at right defensive end.
"Before my first game as a starter, my teammates made me dye my hair beach blond as kind of a hazing thing," he said, smiling. "They said, 'If you're going to be the youngest guy to step on that field, you're going to look good.'"
Fox not only looked good, he played good. Once Rugenstein returned, he earned regular duty on special teams.
GOING OUT IN STYLE
Fox enters his final season of football in the best shape of his life. He's added close to 20 pounds of muscle to his 6-foot-1 frame thanks to an admirable strength-and-conditioning regimen. He can bench press 225 pounds 20 times.
A communications major, he's thinking about possibly pursuing a master's degree and becoming a college professor.
"The thing with a communications degree is that you have a lot of flexibility," he said. "There are a lot of different careers I could pursue."
With Fox's drive and smarts, the odds are he's going to succeed in whatever one he chooses.
Ed Wright can be reached at
firstname.lastname@example.org or (734) 578-2767