October Mag Excerpt: The Billy Taylor Story

Meet former U-M RB Billy Taylor Saturday from 4-7 PM at Atlanta Bread Company on the corner of Packard and State St. in Ann Arbor. Dr. Taylor will be autographing his new book "Get Back Up - The Billy Taylor Story." His fall into the abyss of drug and alcohol abuse long stood as one of the more disappointing developments in the history of Michigan football. Now a changed man, the Bill Taylor of today is a shining example of a Michigan Man. His story is not one of tragedy, but of redemption.

Magazine excerpt from GoBlueWolverine's Feature Story in the October issue: "Billy Taylor - Down But Never Out"

Michigan’s strong combination of academics and athletics were unmatched by any of the other schools on his list. That, however, did not stop him from giving serious consideration to becoming a Buckeye. In the end, sage advice from his high school coach and parental influence from his mother helped him stand up to the in-state pressure and become a Wolverine. “Growing up in Ohio, a lot of people told me I should go to Ohio State,” Taylor recalled. “My high school coach, Red Phillips, always told me, ‘Bill, you have to go somewhere you’re going to get a good education and where you’re going to fit in because YOU are going to have to be there.’ It wasn’t that I wouldn’t fit in at Ohio State or that Ohio State wasn’t a good team. I just felt Michigan was a better school and a better team. Woody (Hayes) made quite an impression though. When we got to my home, he should have been recruiting my mother. He made a statement that he didn’t mean any harm by, but it pretty much ended the possibility of me going there. He said, ‘you should have been at practice Bill! Jack (Tatum) came up and knocked the HELL out of this other player! What a great great practice!’ He was very excited, but my mom wasn’t. She had these spectacles and when I looked over out of the corner of my eye, they were down on her nose. She peaked over the top of them and shook her head. I knew then I was not going to Ohio State.”

After sitting out his freshman season under then head coach Bump Elliot, Taylor was happy with his decision to become a Wolverine. Then while home on vacation he learned of some very jolting news that changed the way he looked at things back in Ann Arbor. “I was home for Christmas break of 68 and I picked up a copy of the Akron Beacon Journal,” Taylor said. “It said, ‘Bo Schembechler named head coach of The University of Michigan.’ I said, ‘awww man, somebody is playing a cruel game!’ I had known Bo since I was around 9 or 10 years old. He was from Barberton. He was the head coach of Miami of Ohio when I was being recruited. I recall Thom Darden and I went to Miami to visit. Bo had us up in the morning at 6am in shorts and t-shirts. We had to run distance and sprints for timing, we had to lift weights, and at the end of that we had to play a full court basketball game against the senior members of the football team. He would squeeze our arms and say, “you guys are soft”, and “how do you score all of those touchdowns?” We thought the man was crazy! Then we wound up coming to Michigan. I just thought, ‘this can’t be.’ I remember we came back for winter conditioning and Bo said, ‘Taylor I want to talk to you.’ He took me into his office and he had this big smile on his face. He said, “you thought you got rid of me, didn’t you?” (laughing). Then he told me that he was going to work me real hard and that he wouldn’t allow me to be a good back. I had to be a great back!”

The Rise

That Schembechler brought out the best in Taylor is undisputed. It should come as no surprise that his greatest moments as a Wolverine came against Ohio State. In 1969, Taylor played in the improbable 24-12 victory over the then #1 ranked Buckeyes. To this day he describes that contest as, “the greatest game that I’ve ever had a part in.” Two years later he turned in the play that is probably the most memorable of his Michigan career.

“1971 was an awesome year,” Taylor said of his MVP campaign. “I was blessed to have what happened to me. It is every young athlete’s dream. We wound up having an undefeated season. It came down to Ohio State. We were behind the whole game. With two minutes left, Bo had faith in me and called my play. I was surprised that he called the wide sweep. I remember looking at him on the sideline and he nodded. I remember thinking to myself, ‘I’m not going down.’ It was the most perfect play. We had Larry Cipa in there and he executed well. He came down the line, pitched the ball to me, turned the corner, and threw a block. Bo Rather crashed down and cracked back. I saw his guy tumble. Fritz Seyferth took me around the corner and took out about two guys. Then I just outran the rest. I wasn’t even touched all the way to the end zone. It was a come from behind win with minutes left in the game and there was a record crowd. It was unbelievable! I felt like I could have run for mayor or governor because I was so popular (laughing). It was really after that, though, that the rug was snatched out from under me and my life took a major turn.”

-Don't forget to join Dr. Taylor at Atlanta Bread Company tomorrow from 4-7pm and be sure to check out the rest of our feature on this former Michigan great in the October Issue of GoBlueWolverine the Magazine.

“Get Back Up” can be purchased online at www.billytaylorinitiatives.com and www.immortalinvestments.com. Exclusive autographed copies can be purchased from the University of Michigan Alumni Association at www.umalumni.com.

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