Taylor gets his last shot
HUNTINGTON -- Jeremiah Taylor walked into the interview room half an hour before the normally scheduled time for player availability on Monday afternoon at Marshall's Joan C. Edwards Stadium.
The reason? He had a 12:30 p.m. lifting session scheduled, which was the same time as the scheduled interviews.
Never before had Taylor looked forward to a lifting session.
That's because prior to the Conference USA Championship game, Taylor got the news that he was cleared to return after a serious injury nearly ended his Marshall career.
Now, the senior from South Point, Ohio, has one last chance to take the field for the Herd.
"I really couldn't describe what it felt like to hear the words that I could play in one last game," Taylor said. "There was a feeling of excitement and joy and all that came with it."
Taylor suffered a fractured spine on a special teams play during the Herd's loss to Ohio earlier this year.
The injury was to "L5" which is the fifth of five lumbar vertebrae along the spine. L5 is the last of those five vertebrae, positioned at the bottom of the lumbar curve, which connects the lumbar area to the sacrum.
At the time, the fear was that Taylor's career with the team might be over because doctors did not know the timetable of a return.
Patiently, Taylor did everything he could to rest the injury and let it heal while also staying as close to the team as possible.
"He's been a coach out there at practice for as long as he's been out with injury," Marshall football coach Doc Holliday said. "He never missed a practice and never missed a meeting. He never missed a trip, hotel or meal. He was out there the entire time. He was signaling our defense into defense. He's just a great kid. Our coaches and players have great respect for him. It's going to be fun to have him back out there."
Taylor said that while he tried to remain in a positive frame of mind about the situation, it was difficult to come with terms with the reality that he might not be back on a football field.
Taylor and his long-time fiance Nakita (formerly Clatworthy) were married following his injury, and Taylor credited her with helping to keep him positive and focused during the difficult time.
"She had my back from Day 1 and was my biggest supporter," Taylor said. "I really needed it at that time because football -- I've been doing this for like four years now. To have that support and to keep my head high, it really helped."
Taylor said even once he was cleared, he made sure to sit down with doctors, coaches and his new wife to discuss the options, which still included not coming back to the field.
In the end, though, his heart was in giving it one more go in a Marshall uniform, which is the best Christmas present he could have asked for.
"There was talk that it could heal, but I wouldn't be able to come back because of where it was on my spine," Taylor said. "By the grace of God, it's healed and I'm able to come back one more time."