How one move impacted Steeler CB Taylor’s life

STEUBENVILLE – Ike Taylor played college football at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers (125th overall) in the 2003 NFL Draft.

Not bad for a guy who played college football for two years and one being at the position where the Steelers drafted him – cornerback.

And, 12 years later, he’s still there.

Taylor was moved from running back to defensive back before his senior season in college.

“I could never imagine the impact that move would have on my life,” said Taylor, who has 620 tackles and 14 interceptions in 169 games in Black and Gold. “The only thing I imagined was that it was going to give me a shot, give me a chance to get into the door of the NFL.

“I’m highly blessed. I think God has shown me a lot of favor. All my accomplishments come from the strength of him. But, I do work hard. I don’t take what I do for granted at all. Every day I am out there working out. I think that’s why I’ve been injury free, major injuries, for the most part, because I work hard and understand what it means to work hard.”

He is one of four Steelers (three former) who will be on hand for the Franciscan University of Steubenville’s Baron Club Dinner Saturday.

Also on the program are former offensive linemen Jeff Hartings and Craig Wolfley and linebacker Robin Cole.

Moderating the conversation will be Bob Pompeani, a sportscaster at Pittsburgh’s KDKA-TV, who has covered the Steelers for more than 32 years. In 2013, he received his sixth Golden Quill award, this one for his Pittsburgh Steeler Exclusive reports. Joining him as co-moderator will be his daughter, Celina Pompeani of WTOV-TV.

And, his NFL career started because of a suggestion by former ULL secondary coach Gary Bartel.

“I couldn’t fight it (the switch) because I was so aggressive at running back and playing on special teams – it fit,” said Taylor. “I liked hitting people. I didn’t mind getting hit. I remember being on the scout team (in college), one of our safeties hit me hard a few times. I got up. I was hurting, but I got up, gave coach the ball back, gave the referee the ball back and my teammates were looking at me like, “man, this dude just knocked the wind out of you and you get up like nothing happened.’

“I knew Ike had the tools to be a cornerback,” Bartel told Randy Jennings of on a Feb. 4, 2011, article. “Our head coach understandably wanted his speed on offense. But the head coach got fired. Before a new coach was hired, I went over to the depth chart display on the wall of the coaches office and moved Ike’s button from running back to cornerback. I told the graduate assistant not to tell a soul. I told Ike he was now a defensive back.

“The new coach never knew a thing about it.”

“Coach told me I had a clear shot in the NFL if I switched,” said Taylor.

Taylor started two of the 29 regular season games he played in his first two years in Pittsburgh. Since, then he has started 138 of the 144 regular season games in which he has played.

He did not see the field at ULL until his junior year.

“I was a walk-on,” Taylor said. “But, at the same time, I was a knuckle head. The academic part wasn’t a problem for me. The problem was me doing knuckle head stuff off the field.

“But, the light switch finally came on and something clicked in my head (the end of his sophomore year) that it was time to stop doing all that stuff. I had an opportunity to play college football and maybe a chance to play professional football, and enough was enough. Once that got into my head, I did a 360.”

Taylor, a two-time Super Bowl champ, spent his first two years with the Steelers primarily on special teams.

“Being a professional athlete and getting the chance to do something you love, you really have to find yourself off the field. You have to really become humble off the field,” he said.

“On the field you can show out – meaning you have to have that confidence, you have to have some kind of cockiness. If not, people are going to run all over you.

“Having the success I’ve had over the course of these years, off the field, I’ve learned to be very humble, to appreciate everyone around me. I’ll say this until the day I die, you can put me with a CEO and we’re going to have some fun. And, you can put me with a janitor, and we’re going to have some fun. Titles mean nothing in my book.”

Taylor said he is looking forward to Saturday, talking about football and his faith.

“Franciscan is getting back into sports, which I like to see, but it’s known for its education and for its Catholic faith,” he said. “I was raised in the church by my mom and my uncles, pretty much by my family in general, so, anything about being in the church and being a Christian, I’m all for it.

“I follow (Book of) Proverbs on Twitter and what it talked about today was, it’s not what you see, but it’s the struggle that you go through, through the storm knowing that God is going to see you through. You have to faith in God and understand that He will see you through circumstances.

“I live my life by faith. I don’t care what people say. I don’t care how people feel. It took me a while to get that and to understand that.

“I’m still a child when it comes to being a Christian. I have my base, I have my foundation and I know what’s right and wrong and what I need to do. But, one thing about being a Christian, you can never learn it all.

“That’s the same way with being a human being – you can never learn it all. Until the day you leave this earth, you’ll always learn.”