Wayne McGahee III

In-Depth With New Commit Taiyon Palmer

The Blue Devils landed a second commitment in the class of 2018 over the weekend as three star DB Taiyon Palmer picked Duke while visiting for the NC Central game.  We spoke with the newest Blue Devil to get an idea of how things went down and to gauge just how solid his decision really is.


Let’s start off the field, what can you tell me about yourself in that regard? 

Well, I’m a safety, born in Virginia, I moved here when I was about 5 and that’s when I started playing football. I’m a rising junior, I run track also to help with my speed for football, that’s me. I was born in Virginia Beach.

On the football side who has played a big role in your development as a player and what positions have you played?

When I first started playing football I played everything really, bunch of different positions, but once I got to high school I started focusing a lot on cornerback because that’s where I really wanted to play. I also played wide receiver, but every school that’s recruiting me is recruiting me to be a corner, so that’s what I’m looking forward to playing in college. My dad has helped me through the way a lot and also my trainer has helped me a lot too. I’m trained a lot at the cornerback spot, my high school put me at the safety spot also because I can play it a little bit, but I’m really trained to be a corner.

From a cornerback perspective, what’s your approach to playing the position?

When it comes to playing cornerback, I like to be up in the receivers face, jamming them and getting my hands on the wide receiver. Then when the ball is in the air, I like to go up and get it. When they throw to my side, I work hard to try and either intercept it or get a deflection at least. I just like being in the receivers face and I can play zone and man too.

Can you tell me a bit about your track career as well?

In track I ran the 100, 200 and the 4 by 1 but I didn’t get to run the 200 this year because I pulled my hamstring and that pulled me out for a long time during the season. In the 100 I ran it in 11.2 laser timed, that was my first time running it and then I actually pulled my hamstring, so that was the only time I ran that during the season. Running track has helped me with my speed and getting my form down. I’m not looking to run track in college though.

Which programs did you get to visit for either a game or just a general visit to the school and football program?

I’ve been to Indiana and Duke, those are two offers that I had. I’ve been to South Carolina, North Carolina, Alabama, Vandy, Cincinnati, Kentucky, Middle Tennessee, I’ve been to a lot of schools. I was able to spend some really good time with the coaches at Indiana and Duke. I’ve been up there to Duke for a camp and that’s where they offered me and I also went to Indiana last year and then I sent in my first three games of game film from last season to them and that’s when Indiana offered me. I’ve been to Indiana twice since then.

When did you visit Duke for their camp?

That was this year at their Friday Night Lights Camp. That was the only time I had been on their campus. The campus is amazing, I love the campus and the coaching staff is even better. Coach Guerreri is my recruiting area coordinator and he’s just really cool, I can’t wait to keep building a better relationship with him going for in the process. At the camp him and I spoke right after the camp with my dad, we spoke for awhile there. Then I called him after that and I was asking him a bunch of questions that I had about the program like their tutoring programs, just the academic side of Duke, how their classes go, graduation rates, stuff like that, GPA. It’s Duke so you know everything is top of the line and everything that Coach Guerreri said was true. I’m thinking about majoring in Civil Engineering and I was asking him about that and what type of engineering programs they have. He told me that they are #1 in Biomedical Engineering which was really cool. He said it’s Duke University so you know we’re top 10 in everything. That really caught my eye, he’s very confident. Every time we talk he tells me like a different fact about Duke and then I can look it up for myself which is cool because everything he’s said is true.

How did they present the offer?

The way they presented the offer was I went up to Coach Jones after the camp I was at and he told me to stay after for a little bit and he asked me where my dad was. Then when I turned around and was walking, Coach Cutcliffe was there with me and he tapped me on my shoulder and asked me how I was doing and then he started talking to me about my high school coach and he told me how he was really one of his favorite high school coaches. His son, Coach Cutcliffe’s son also coaches down in this area and he said that my coach is one of their favorite high school coaches. So then Coach Cutcliffe told me that when I went back to my school that I needed to tell my coach that Coach Cutcliffe at Duke had offered me a scholarship and I told him yes sir and I thanked him and I shook his hand. Then I walked over to my father and I told him that I got offered. It was a really happy time, both my dad and I were really excited, it was great.

Have you had a recent measurement with your height, weight and wingspan and all that?

I’m 6 foot, last time I weighed in I was at 165.

Was the Duke offer one you were really hoping to get or were you in a sense expecting it when you were going there for the camp?

It was kinda expected because they had come to look at me during spring practice and the day that they came over, I knew they were coming to see me because my coach told me that they were coming to see me. So then I just had to go up to their camp and prove that I could get the offer with my ability. Coach Dyer was really excited for me when I got the Duke offer, he told me that getting the Duke offer was huge and I really needed to take it into consideration when I was ready to pick my schools. When we went for the camp visit my mom wasn’t able to make it for the Duke visit, so I really want to make sure I go back and visit them again so my mom can come see it and to also talk with all the academic side of Duke and also talk with all the coaches too.

So, now that it’s over, how does it feel to be committed?

It feels good, really good. It’s a day I’ve been waiting for for a long time. Couldn’t be happier. I’ve been playing football since I was 5 years old and I knew I always wanted to go to college to play football. Now that it’s finally here, it’s exciting.

What do you remember about the final family discussions as you figured out where you wanted to go?

When I first went to Duke for the camp, I just got a feeling about it that I could definitely see myself there for the next 4 or 5 years and I could picture myself going there. When they offered me it just made the vision even clearer. Then my dad and I were talking about it and he told me there was no reason why I shouldn’t take Duke into high consideration, so I thought about that and just after talking with the coaches for the past few months and finally getting my mom down there so she could see the campus, there was just no reason not to commit to Duke. The possibilities are endless.

What did it mean to you have that support from your parents for your decision?

Oh man it’s huge, they are my biggest influences. I’ve learned everything from them in this path that led me to want to pick Duke. After I graduate from there, the things that I’ll be able to do in my life, the ceiling is high with possibilities. They trusted the coaches and everything they have told us, my parents honestly believe in what the coaches are saying about how at Duke I’d be a part of a family and they would be a part of a family. The opportunities that I would have after going to Duke are the best. I’d be safe school-wise, football-wise and life-wise.

Did you ever imagine that you would be making your college decision so quickly?

I didn’t actually, I really didn’t think a decision would come this quickly. Really it came down to was Duke was everything I wanted in college with football-wise, school-wise and then once I got it, I looked into it and I dug deeper into what they were offering me and I asked many questions and I got them answered and my parents told me that there was no reason to wait if I knew.

What did you see or hear at or from Duke that really solidified your perspective that all your questions were answered?

When I first got there, the very first visit during the summer, I got on campus and it seemed like every coach came up to speak with me and were just talking with me and welcoming me to the campus. This time when I went there to visit this weekend, it was the same thing, every coach welcomed me and my family, they made me and my entire family feel at home and welcome. Then I also spent the night with Dylan Singleton, a freshman that goes there. All the players I met that night, they took me under their wing and they took an interest in me and made me feel welcome.

What other players did you get a chance to spend time with and have good conversations with?

I spoke with TJ Rahming, I hung out with him a lot that night too. Then Dylan (Singleton), Deondre (Singleton), Breon (Borders) and some others. I asked them why did they choose Duke and they all had the same answers that I do, they just really treat you like family up there and once you graduate, the only place you can go is up. Graduating from Duke, that’s a huge accomplishment, so they told me that the job opportunities I could get after Duke and the relationships they can build with other people at Duke will impact your future in a great way. Then the family atmosphere with the coaches there, they just make you feel like you are at home there, like you are one of their sons.

Being a former high school teammate of current Duke freshman Dylan Singleton, can you take me through how involved he was in your recruiting process with Duke and how helpful was his communication with you in that process?

It’s going to be good to know that once I get up there I’m going to have somebody there that I’m really close with already. I talk to him at least on a daily or weekly basis and it’ll be great that when I do get up there they’ll be able to help me get adjusted to classes and everything that’s going on there. He told me when he got up there, he feels like family and once he got up there, he felt like he fit in perfectly with the system and that the people there with the coaches and players just really accepted him and when I get up there, it’ll be the same thing and nothing will change because how they treat you in the recruiting process is the same when you get there. He said I really needed to take that into consideration.

When you were going up for this visit, were you going into that with the intention to commit, or was there something you saw or heard on this last visit that confirmed you wanted to commit to Duke?

I was going up there to commit. At that point, my dad and I were 100% for it and I really just wanted my mom to have that chance to experience what we already had. Once she everything, she just fell in love with the campus and with everything, she loved everything about it. Once I knew that for sure, there was no reason for me not to commit.

How did the Duke staff structure the visit for you and your family?

Saturday we got there around 4ish for the game, so when we first got there we got checked in and then we headed to the Yoh football building. Then we ate and all the parents came and introduced themselves to my parents, and they got to speak with my parents and us. I was also getting to talk with some of the recruits like Gunnar Holmberg, he’s the 2018 quarterback that’s committed there and then my parents were having a good time too. Then before the game started we got to go down on the field and watch the team warm up and then once the game started, we went into the bleachers and sat with the other recruits and their families. Then after the game, that’s when I went to go stay with Dylan and then my parents went back to the hotel and then the next morning is when we went on the tour. They got to do a great tour and my mom got to see everything she needed to see.

Then after that we got to go back to the coaches office and speak with Coach Guerreri for a little bit and then we sat down with Coach Jones and talked about everything. We talked about how the future is looking there and then it just so happened when we were leaving and were at the elevator, Coach Cutcliffe walks off the elevator and introduces himself to my mom and that’s when we went back to his office and started talking some more. Then after that conversation, that’s when I went ahead and committed.

What did you share with Coach Cutcliffe when you committed?

So after he finished speaking and everything, I told him, “Coach Cutcliffe, I love it up here and I know for a fact that no other school can me make me feel like I’m a part of a family like Duke does and I know there’s not another school that’s going to offer me and my family the opportunities after football like Duke does. I know that my parents want me to be here and I want to be here too, this is where I want to be for the next 4-5 years,” and that’s when I told him that I wanted to go to Duke. After that, it was funny, he yelled and was like wooooo and he was like, “new commit baby !!!” Then we walked down the hall to the defensive coaches room where they were having a meeting and he burst into the room and he’s like, “we got a new Blue Devil” and all the coaches started yelling and getting excited and they all were giving me hugs and that’s when the offensive coaches heard also and they started congratulating me and my family like the defensive coaches had. They were showing a lot of love.

How did you and your family react to that response from the Duke coaches?

We loved it, everybody in my family had a huge smile on their face. I remember my mom started tearing up a little bit and my dad was smiling this big smile on his face. They were really happy for me. I was actually a little nervous when I was giving my commitment, I almost stuttered it out a little bit haha, but when I said it, Coach Cutcliffe when he shouted and he gave me a hug and told me he was excited. Once we were walking out, I hugged my parents and they told me congratulations. It still hasn’t sunk in yet, it’s still pretty fresh, I give it about a week until it’ll probably feel more settled in, right now I’m still getting a lot of people showing me love on Twitter, congratulating me, it’s been great.

We’ve learned at the site about this Duke 2017 commits group chat, are you in that as well or have you and Gunnar Holmberg started one for the 2018 class now?

I was in it for awhile with the Duke 2017 guys, but then my phone broke a few days ago, so I haven’t been in it since then. I’ve talked to Joshua Blackwell a lot, I’ve got a good relationship with him. Then Drew Jordan, I’m not as close with him as I am with Joshua, but we do talk here and there.

How often are you and Duke’s first 2018 commit Gunnar Holmberg talking these days? How’s the relationship there?

Me and Gunnar are really cool, I talk to him almost every day, if it’s not every day, it’s like 4 times per week at least. So when I saw him, this was my first time seeing him when I was at the game this weekend, once I saw him there we had a really good conversation.

Did he know you were planning on committing?

Oh yeah he knew, I had told him like a couple weeks back. We were texting then and he asked me if I was thinking about going up there for the game and he asked me if I was thinking about committing and I told him that I wanted to really bad. I told him that if everything went the way I was hoping it to go, then I would be committing. When they had offered me at the camp, I had like a gut feeling like a week after that that I wanted to be there. I knew that I was coming to the game with my family and I knew I was planning on committing for like a month before then, but I was really hoping that I was going to be able to actually get to the point where I could commit this weekend. When I figured out we were coming to the game and I knew my mom was going to be able to see everything there, that’s when I knew it was going to be the perfect time. I don’t think the coaches knew, but I talked with Coach Guerreri a lot and I think he knew that Duke was a place I wanted to be at, I just don’t think he knew that this weekend was the time I was actually going to commit, so I think that surprised him a little bit.

Are you looking at potentially graduating early from high school?

My parents asked me and Coach Jones that question and Coach Jones actually said that he wants all his players to have those senior year memories, so he said that he doesn’t prefer you to graduate early, but if I did graduate early, he wouldn’t be mad at more or anything like that. I’m really not sure yet because I kinda agree with him and I do think it’s important I finish out my senior year of high school. I really don’t know how I feel about that right now.

On the playing side of things, where are you projected to potentially end up?

They told me they recruited me as a corner, but Coach Jones and Coach Guerreri have told me that sometimes Duke has as many as six DBs on the field, so they have both said they can project me playing any of those positions, safety, corner, bandit, striker position, all of them. They said I have the potential and athletic ability to play any of those positions. That’s perfectly fine with me because they both said they play their best DBs, so wherever they feel I can play and to make the team successful, I’m down with that.

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