Devin Taylor: From USC to the Detroit Lions, this local football star honors his Lowcountry roots

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By Carson Moore

Devin Taylor is a hard man to miss. At last Saturday’s Devin Taylor Appreciation Day celebration, he towered over the crowds of people who had lined up to meet their hometown hero. Standing tall at 6’7”, Taylor initially presents quite an imposing figure, but the moment he smiles and shakes your hand, it’s evident that he’s simply glad to be back in the Lowcountry, around the people and places he calls home.

Devin Taylor towers above local fans.
Devin Taylor towers above local fans.

A Beaufort native, Devin Taylor enjoys every opportunity he gets to revisit his hometown.

“The best thing about Beaufort,” he said, “is just the general experience. Not many people have the opportunity to say they come from a place like this.”

Having attended the University of South Carolina, Taylor graduated with a degree in integrated information technology.  His interest in technology extends beyond the classroom. “He always tries to get his hands on the newest things out on the market,” said Tanner Powell, a rising USC freshman and close friend of Taylor’s. “He loves technology.”

Like many of the kids who grew up here, Taylor also visits home to relax and have a good time, and has many interests beyond the latest electronics. “I like to do normal stuff,” he chuckles, “I go fishing, mud racing, hiking, and sometimes hunting.” He uses the rest of his spare time to hang out at the sandbar, where he can often be seen cooling down in the water or taking it easy on a boat with friends.

Aside from recognizing his hometown as a place to come and escape everyday life, the football star acknowledges that his roots are deeply embedded in Beaufort.

Taylor’s name is known in every household in the town, and he’s often the center of attention when he visits. People flock to him to take pictures and snag autographs, and not a single one comes away from it unimpressed.

Powell describes him as being, “introverted until you get to know him, then you see that he’s funny in his own way.”

Kristy Kelnhofer, a local schoolteacher, also speaks fondly of Taylor. “He [Devin] has always been a quiet leader, leading with actions, not with words. He sets a wonderful example for others to look up to.”

Taylor wasn’t always such a prominent public figure, however. His initial introduction to football came on the Lady’s Island Middle School field, under the guidance of local coach Jerry Hatcher. Coach Hatcher proved to be an important source of inspiration for Taylor as he moved up the football food chain, shaping him as a player as he transitioned to Beaufort High School. “Coach [Hatcher] has been there for me all through middle and high school,” Taylor explained, “He really pushed me to play well.”

Devin Taylor is seen in his Gamecock #98 jersey during last year's season.
Devin Taylor is seen in his Gamecock #98 jersey during last year’s season.

It seems like Coach Hatcher’s lessons have paid off in the long run. In his senior year of high school, Taylor took the Beaufort High team to the state championships, and earned recognition on the All-State team. He was a hero among the students at Beaufort High, as well as the local football fans. In fact, his time as a defensive-end on the high school team was so impressive, that it earned him a place on the USC Gamecocks, where he earned notoriety as a Freshman All-SEC player and third team All-American, as well as first team All-SEC in 2010.

For the first time, Taylor was on the national stage, playing football in front of thousands of fans and millions of at-home viewers.

However, the stresses of constantly being in the limelight don’t faze Taylor in the slightest. “You’re always in sight, no matter where you are,” he explains, “You’ve just got to stay positive and be a good representative of your team.”

This philosophy has followed him from his place on the Gamecocks college team to his new role as a professional football player for the Detroit Lion. For Taylor, playing for the Lions is a dream job.

“The best part of playing for the NFL?” he laughs, “Definitely playing for the NFL … that’s pretty cool in itself!”

Although he might play for a new team, Devin Taylor keeps his home and the people who’ve helped him along the way close to his heart. On his wrist, along with numerous other rubber bands declaring the causes he supports, are two bands that stand out to locals: a dark green Beaufort High School band and a garnet USC Gamecocks football bracelet.

As for the future, Taylor’s got one goal in mind: “I’m just going to make the team [the Lions],” he said, “I’m going to play.”