Senior reflects on career

As a fifth-year senior, Lance Taylor's college career spanned what has almost certainly been the most trying period in Crimson Tide history. But up until a couple of weeks ago, he honestly hadn't given it that much thought.

"It doesn't set in while you're in the season," Taylor explained, "but now that it's done you think about it."

Taylor was on hand for two 10-win seasons, including 1999's SEC championship. But he and his teammates also endured an endless NCAA investigation, crippling sanctions that followed, and this past year's revolving door on the Alabama's head coach's office.

Through it all, the players learned to depend on each other.

"All the trials that we've been through really brought us together as a group," Taylor said. "It helped us bond and be more closely knit. Everything was changing. Even media expectations were changing from good to bad. But whatever it was, we had to rely on each other. We realized that we had to believe in each other and in ourselves.

"Whatever anybody else says is irrelevant."

A proud Crimson Tide legacy (father James, played for some of Coach Bryant's best teams in the 70s), Lance Taylor specialized in special teams his first four seasons on campus, earning a scholarship for his efforts. This past season he also contributed on offense, catching 12 passes for 115 yards and two touchdowns.

Taylor talked about his family away from home.

"All the adversity brought us closer together. It's amazing how much we grew together once the trials started happening. It is like a family. We're around each other every single day, whether working out or watching film or playing. When you go out on that field, you bleed and sweat together. It becomes a family."

Shown lifting at Bama's Night of Champions, Lance Taylor leaves Alabama knowing he gave his best effort.

Along with the scholarship reductions, the NCAA planned to cripple Alabama by bleeding its junior and senior talent pool. Normally an athlete must sit out a year after switching from one Division 1 school to another, which deters most transfers. But because of the two-year bowl ban, for the past two seasons Taylor's and last year's senior class could have left the Tide without penalty.

Frankly, both the NCAA and national pundits expected an exodus of upperclass players out of Tuscaloosa, looking for a team with post-season prospects.

But it didn't happen.

"We knew before we came to Alabama that it was special," Taylor said. "Once you get here you realize that. You see the tradition. You see Joe Namath and Kenny Stabler at practice. Once you get here you get caught up in the tradition.

"Once you get here, you realize that going anywhere else would be second best."

Remarkably, despite knowing that the Tide could not play in a bowl game either last year or this, not a single junior or senior transferred to another school.

Taylor explained, "We didn't want to take a step down to play somewhere else, just so we could go to a bowl game. To me it was more important to carry on the tradition, to stay at a school that I loved. This is where my heart was.

"With most of the guys, it was more important to stay and play at a school that they loved than maybe achieve personal success somewhere else."

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