Marshall Taylor was ready to walk away from football.
The Miami-Ohio defensive back seriously considering leaving a year of eligibility on the table after his team’s season ended in December.
Taylor, who medically redshirted as a sophomore, is set to graduate in May with a degree in sports management and minor geriatric health.
The prospect of being a punching bag in the Mid-American Conference for a fifth year didn’t sound like a promising idea. The RedHawks had a combined record of 9-40 during his time with the program.
“I haven’t won anything,” Taylor said. “It was frustrating. I lost for four years in a row. I wasn’t part of a great team in high school, but we were always above .500. I was ready to take my degree and head off into the real world.”
Before making a final decision, Taylor sent a tape of his senior year highlights to a group of coaches back home in the Cordele, Georgia area. The coaches saw a player on tape that had the talent to play at a Power 5 school.
Taylor started 10 of the Miami-Ohio’s 11 games as a senior, finishing the season with 39 tackles, two interceptions and two pass breakups. His best game of the season came against Wisconsin with an interception and season-high nine tackles. He also returned an interception for touchdown against Akron.
The prospect of playing collegiate football at the highest level was impossible to pass up for Taylor.
“I wasn’t content yet, I still have a few things left on my checklist,” Taylor said.
Auburn was one of the schools that showed immediate interest in Taylor once he committed to the grad transfer option. Louisville, Michigan State and Florida also competed for Taylor’s services.
Taylor scheduled official visits to all four schools, but his time on the Plains changed his mind. The defensive back verbally committed to the Tigers midway through his visit and plans on cancelling stops he scheduled for mid-April at MSU and Florida.
“I’m ready to get on the big stage,” Taylor said. “Who doesn’t want to play in front of 90,000 fans?”
A combination of factors convinced Taylor that Auburn was his perfect landing spot.
The defensive back knew and respected the Tigers’ secondary coach Wes McGriff. McGriff was on Vanderbilt’s staff when the school recruited Taylor as a high school senior.
“How can you not be impressed with his resume?” Taylor said. “He is a high caliber coach and he just left the NFL. He knows what scouts are looking for and can help elevate my game.”
Taylor’s connection to Auburn’s roster included a friendship with Auburn defensive lineman Montravius Adams, who went to Taylor’s rival high school (Dooly County).
“When we would play the two cities would shut down,” Taylor said. “We grew up five to 10 minutes apart. We had some conversations along the way and he definitely helped me.”
The success Michigan grad transfer Blake Countess had at Auburn last season also made a difference.
Taylor knew Countess through a former roommate and reached out to the former Wolverine to get information during the recruiting process.
“They let him play,” Taylor said. “They didn’t just bring him in here to sit on the bench. He was the team’s defensive MVP last season, that was a big deal to me.”
As a graduate transfer, Taylor will be eligible to play immediately. He plans to move to Auburn sometime after he graduates in May — “we are still working out all those details” — and hopes to compete for playing time at defensive back and nickel.
“No one wanted to give me the opportunity when I was coming out of high school,” Taylor said. “They didn’t think I could put on the weight, thought I was too skinny. This reconfirmed in my head that I can do this, you know? I always knew I was good enough. I’m ready to prove it.”