Ike Taylor of the Pittsburgh Steelers wasn’t “supposed” to be where he is today.
The two-time Super Bowl Champion cornerback struggled with poverty as a child in Louisiana, but excelled as a high school player. He was not rated highly by scouts when he became a fourth round draft pick by the Steelers in 2003. That’s not surprising when you consider his college career at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette was derailed for its first two seasons due to academic struggles Taylor eventually overcame.
He would walk on for the Ragin’ Cajuns in 2001 and win back a scholarship before finishing a successful college career and finding a home with the Steelers. He’s now one of the highest paid cornerbacks in the league, and (while not an interceptions machine) he’s an intense competitor and a feared hitter in the league.
Taylor talked with Crave Online about how he maintains his intensity – and how handles his unlikely role as a team leader for one of the great franchises in football history.
CraveOnline: In a league full of elite athletes, how do you keep your edge?
Ike Taylor: I take pride in what I do. It’s always true that you can’t take a play off in the National Football League. You have to be ready to go all out on every single snap. No exceptions. That’s what I keep in mind. That’s how I train. That’s how I practice. That’s how I play.
CraveOnline: You mention your training regimen. How do you stay in shape and prepare for an NFL season?
Ike Taylor: During the lockout, I trained in New Orleans with my personal coach, Tom Shaw. He knows my body and what I need to do – what it takes to be in football shape. We work on conditioning, strength and explosiveness to match what I see from the receivers.
CraveOnline: The only criticism leveled against you is you don’t rack up as many interceptions as some elite cornerbacks. Does that bother you?
Ike Taylor: No. I know the interceptions will come. I just need to play the game and be that shutdown corner I can be. That’s more important to me.
CraveOnline: They say quarterbacks in the NFL must have short memories to make plays while forgetting their mistakes. Can that also be said about cornerbacks who give up big plays here and there?
Ike Taylor: Guys are going to catch passes on you. They get paid, too. You just need to get out there and make your plays – make more plays than the man your covering does.
CraveOnline: It might seem like you were a rookie just yesterday, but you’re a veteran now with two rings to your credit. As new rookies come to the team, do they turn to you for advice as a leader?
Ike Taylor: The young guys can come to me, but I don’t look to say much. I look to lead by example. I’m moving forward. If you want to jump on board, play the way I do.
CraveOnline: The Steelers got off to a slow start this year, but you seem to settle in with a big win over the New England Patriots. How did the team hang together during the rough start to get it rolling again?
Ike Taylor: You play one game at a time, one play at a time. It doesn’t matter if you’re 5-1 or 6-0 or whatever your record is. Regardless, you play for 60 minutes. That’s what we did, and that’s what we’re going to do.
Photo credit – AP