New Badalona Dracs DE Mike Taylor III ready for European debut a long time in the making

When the Badalona Dracs took on the Mallorca Voltors in the third weekend of play in Spain’s top league, it was a European debut a long time in the making for defensive end Mike Taylor III.

Rookie Americans dipping their toes in the water of international football are a dime a dozen, but Taylor’s already been involved in more European organizations than many seasoned vets. The Shreveport, Louisiana native has been on the continent for a year, signing with three different organizations in three different countries, and has yet to see the field.

Taylor first came to play for the Berlin Adler of Germany but before he could show off his talents, the GFL season was canceled. With nothing better to do, Taylor looked east. Poland’s Tychy Falcons had already met their import quota but offered him a chance to train with the team. Already in a relationship with a Polish girl, Taylor took advantage.

“I was like, well, instead of just being in Germany and locked down, I could go be with my girlfriend, work out, and help a team win,” he says cheerfully.

Not able to play in games, the Falcons used him in other ways. Having already briefly served as the defensive coordinator for Berlin’s junior team, he became a pseudo coach in Poland at the urging of the team’s DC.

“He saw my background and he said that if I see anything to help him out. So, I was more of like assistant defensive coach but at the same time, I practiced with them cause they knew I was a football player,” Taylor explains. “Then they asked me if I could become the defensive coordinator for the junior team so I did that as well.”

When it comes to overcoming unexpected obstacles, Taylor has become something of an expert over the years. He comes by it naturally, having fallen in love with the game of football through the resilient New Orleans Saints of the post-Katrina era.

“They gave a sense of hope,” Taylor recalls of the team’s return after the devastating Hurricane. “You know, literally everything was destroyed. If you ask me do I have any baby pictures of myself, I don’t because it was all destroyed in the storm. I guess that really just gave a sense of hope. Like we’re back, New Orleans is rising and we weren’t completely destroyed.”

Taylor, too, would do his share of battling against adversity. A force to be reckoned with for a dominant CE Byrd High program in Shreveport, college coaches kept passing on the classic ‘tweener’.

“It was hard. I had plenty of coaches wanting to get me offers from bigger schools, I had a lot of schools wanting to make me a preferred walk-on, but nothing happened,” Taylor says of the recruiting process. “I had a talk with the USC coach who said, well, you don’t look like a defensive end and we don’t know how you look as a linebacker for us.”

Teams like LSU showed interest in the local product, but only if he paid his own way. Others, like Arkansas and South Alabama, offered him initially, then pulled out in favor of bigger prospects. Memphis, the last major program interested, went for a JuCo transfer instead and all seemed lost. Finally, a week before signing day, Georgetown University came calling. The academic powerhouse was looking for hybrid athlete just like Taylor and he quickly signed on board for the certainty of a quality degree.

With plenty of veterans ahead of him on the depth chart, Taylor spent most of his first two years on the sideline. Then, just as his window to perform was opening, tragedy struck. After a game against Columbia, Taylor got a text that would change his life.

“I was sitting down at a table with all my friends and my sister texted me. It was was a weird text because my sister doesn’t text me out of the blue. She told me to call her ASAP and that’s when like a bad feeling just hit,” Taylor remembers.

Eventually, his step dad picked up the phone. His mother, a long-time sufferer of sickle cell anemia, had caught a PVR virus and passed away suddenly. Taylor was blindsided.

“That morning, before the game, my mom was supposed to call me. She went to the hospital because she felt bad at the time, but we didn’t think it was anything major. Because my mom had sickle cell, it was always just customary for her to go check,” he says. “Unfortunately, she was supposed to call that evening and she didn’t.”

For an already overloaded student athlete trying to complete a difficult degree at one of the country’s most prestigious schools, the loss threatened to knock him off course.

“Honestly, it was probably the toughest time of my life. I’d never felt like that. Not only losing my mom at the end of my sophomore year, but the second game of my junior season I suffered a season ending injury, ” Taylor explains. “It was pretty tough. I was majoring in computer science and it was just a lot. I wound up having to withdraw a couple of times.”

Despite it all, Taylor persisted. Completing extra courses in the summer to get back on track, he finally became a full-time starter for the Hoyas in 2018. It would be his last season however. Despite having another year of eligibility, a new defensive coaching staff wanted to get younger and Taylor found himself without a place to play. Believing he still had untapped potential, Europe became the destination.

“I’ve always felt like I can compete with the guys in the NFL, but you have to go to a certain school and have a certain type of career,” Taylor says. “I figured I didn’t have the best college career so far so I viewed the opportunity to come to Europe as a second chance.”

Now with the Badalona Dracs, Taylor will finally have an opportunity to prove himself on the field. An emergency replacement to fill the void left by injured Austrian linebacker Dustin Illetschko, the defensive end is expected to make a major impact for Spain’s top club. It’s a chance he relishes, but he wants to make clear that he’s not just another cocky import .

“I just want people to know that you’re getting a football player that cares about the sport, that cares about helping others and getting the most out of it,” Taylor says thoughtfully. “It’s not about the money. It’s just about coming in and getting an opportunity to have fun, to continue my career, to see where it goes and to try to help the program as long as they allow me to.”

With a loaded roster around him that is once again favored for the Spanish title, things are finally starting to go Mike Taylor’s way.

It’s about time.

JC Abbott
J.C. Abbott is a student at the University of British Columbia and amateur football coach in Vancouver, Canada. A CFL writer for 3DownNation, his love of travel has been the root of his fascination with the global game.
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