Thursday, September 17, 2009

Sports columnist Aaron McFarling: DT Taylor holds sky-high hopes for future

BLACKSBURG -- If you happen to recognize a bearded, 270-pound man on an airplane in about five years, try not to blow his cover.

Virginia Tech defensive tackle Demetrius Taylor hopes to be inconspicuous. Aims to blend in. Desires to play it cool.

Those are required traits for federal air marshals, the plainclothes travelers trained to detect, deter and defeat potential terrorists. And if Taylor is going to reach his career goal of becoming one, he's got a little work to do on the camouflaging front.

"I'm not sure," Taylor said with a smile, when asked just how inconspicuous a guy his size could be. "Maybe I'll have to drop a few pounds and get a little bit smaller so I don't stick out."

Taylor sticks out plenty, and not just for his grunt efforts with the 13th-ranked Hokies. The redshirt senior needed only three years to earn a degree in sociology and is working on his second undergraduate degree in psychology. His weight-room exploits have become the stuff of legend; Taylor set four defensive tackle records this offseason along with the all-positions standard in the push-jerk.

When Tech coach Frank Beamer talked this preseason about liking the makeup of this year's team, Taylor is exactly the kind of guy he was appreciating. A man with lofty aspirations and a work ethic to match. A guy taking classes on crime and deviance, not one becoming the course's case study outside some bar at 2 a.m.

Taylor's desire to be an air marshal -- or an FBI agent, if the whole camouflaging thing doesn't work out -- stems from his upbringing and his experiences at Tech. He said his father fought in Desert Storm, and his grandfather served in Vietnam.

"It's something that's in your blood, I guess," he said of a willingness to put his life on the line.

Taylor was a freshman in high school when the 9/11 terrorist attacks occurred in 2001. Those events influenced him, but it was the Tech tragedy of April 16, 2007, that solidified his plans.

"I was actually in the building right across from Norris, and I saw the students running out and I saw the police rushing in and the FBI running in. ...

"I felt for the students who were running out. They were running for their lives. I had never seen anything like that. But as far as seeing the cops rush in and [seeing] that kind of camaraderie among the officers, knowing that all of them were putting their lives at risk, it just made me feel like that's something" he wanted to do.

Not that Taylor had an inclination to run toward the gunfire that day.

"Obviously, I wasn't armed like the rest of the policemen were," he said. "But I knew that if I got the right training and the right experience, that's definitely something I could be good at."

Taylor served an internship this past summer with the New Jersey State Police and still keeps in touch with the Drug Enforcement Agency and FBI contacts he made there, hopeful that they could help him get started in the business after his final year of football.

"I know I want some kind of government agency job," Taylor said. "Playing football your whole life, you kind of get accustomed to the lifestyle of having something to do all the time. Not just sitting behind a desk, but actually being active with your time.

"I feel like being an FBI agent or air marshal would allow me to do that after football."

So if Taylor makes a great play against Nebraska this weekend, be sure to congratulate him.

Just don't do it at 35,000 feet.

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