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Welcome back to SZN Opener, CASSIUS’ sports podcast that focuses on the unique journeys of Black athletes in college.

In episode six, host Lamar Hurd sits down with Rice University safety Gabe Taylor to talk about life as a student-athlete at one of the top universities in the nation.

Taylor played basketball from his freshman to junior year of high school, then returned to football as a senior, playing for the first time since the eighth grade. Despite his late return, Taylor was recognized as one of six finalists for the Nat Moore Trophy across Miami-Dade, Broward, and Monroe Counties and was the highest-rated recruit signed by Rice in the 247 era.

“I knew I was going to come back to football in my high school career,” he says. “I feel like it was God’s plan to put me in my senior year, and yeah, I had a crazy career, that senior career.”

Taylor decided on Rice with the desire to make a difference. “I didn’t want to just come here because it’s Rice. I wanted to come here to change the program,” he says. Then COVID hit. Taylor spent his first days at Rice in quarantine. But with the support of his family and teammates, he got through it.

“Coaches checking in on me, teammates checking in on me, my parents checking in on me, just keeping me up and stuff like that. If it wasn’t for my mindset—my mindset is built to last—I would have been quit.”

Once he was able to start training and playing, Taylor navigated a steep learning curve that came with transitioning from high school to college. “When I got to college, I had no technique, no eye discipline… In high school, I felt like it was easy,” he says. “When I got to college… I really took time and dedicated to this game, my techniques and getting bigger.”

Taylor also speaks on the impact that his late brother Sean Taylor, who played for the Washington Redskins, had on his life. “It’s just motivation to me… It’s not like it’s bad pressure [or] bad weight. It’s about competing at a high level when everybody sees me on the field.”

Taylor also expresses appreciation for his parents and their role in his success. “The older I got, the more appreciative I got for them and the love, it keeps growing and growing… I appreciate them, I’m grateful for them. They haven’t missed a game,” he says. “Without them, I wouldn’t be here. They put me in situations that made me successful right now.”

Listen to the podcast here on the Urban One podcasts platform or your favorite streaming app.

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