For all of the tackles, sacks, forced fumbles and interceptions they have on the gridiron, Bruce Taylor and Tariq Edwards met at — of all places — a high school basketball game.
Edwards, a native of Cheraw, S.C., wasn’t playing in the game due to injury. Taylor, from Myrtle Beach, S.C., was just there as a spectator.
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“He was on the side cheering and stuff, and I recognized him because he had his football jersey on — so that’s when I met him,” Edwards said.
At the time they would never have believed it, but just three years later, Taylor and Edwards are the top two tacklers on a Virginia Tech defense.
“It’s crazy man,” Edwards said.
FROM THE BEACH TO THE ‘BURG
Bruce Taylor didn’t fly in under the radar.
The No. 12 inside linebacker in the class of 2008, Taylor had his pick from just about every school in the Southeast. The Hokies, particularly the defense led by Bud Foster, were ultimately the choice.
He was being considered for playing time as a true freshman when he hurt his shoulder, which might have been a blessing in disguise. Prior to the injury, Taylor was moved to defensive end from his more natural position at linebacker.
“I really looked at it as a little minor setback, I knew I was going to bounce back and reach my potential here,” Taylor said. “It definitely hurt not being able to play. When you’re a freshman, you don’t want to hear that redshirt talk, you want to play right now.”
Taylor, who put up Madden-like numbers in high school (205 tackles, 42 for loss his sophomore year), said the transition from being “Mr. Everything” to just another incoming freshman wasn’t easy for him.
“I had just left high school, and I was the man,” Taylor said. “When you come here, you’re just the little guy again, just restarting the whole process.”
In 2009, Taylor finally saw game action. Although he only finished with six tackles in six games, it was clear the talent was there. 2010 figured to be another year backing up starting middle linebacker Barquell Rivers, but the football gods had other plans.
When Rivers went down with a ruptured quadriceps tendon during 2010 offseason workouts, it was Taylor’s time to step up and seize the moment. Taylor said his role backing up Rivers in 2009 prepared him for life as a starter.
“It really sucked to see him get hurt like that,” Taylor said. “He made a lot of plays, but he never takes a play off. That’s something everybody can learn from.”
The leading tackler for the Hokies in 2010 as a redshirt sophomore, Taylor is on pace to have another season leading the Hokies in tackles. That is, if Edwards doesn’t outdo him.