Golden Sports catches up with K Taylor Mehlhaff

Taylor Mehlhaff of Aberdeen (SD) Central is considered one of the top kicking prospects in the country. He visited Minnesota Dec. 12 and was at Wisconsin this past weekend. Both schools have offered him a scholarship and he will likely decide between the two schools in the next two weeks. Mehlhaff was named the South Dakota Gatorade football player of the year. got a chance to talk to Taylor's father Charles after their return trip from Madison.

Taylor Mehlhaff led the Golden Eagles to a 12-1 record and a runner-up finish in the Class 11AA state finals as they lost to Spearfish. He was the team's kicker, punter, defensive back and quarterback. Mehlhaff completed 107 of 217 passes for 1,359 yards and 12 touchdowns this season. He rushed 118 times for 365 yards and four touchdowns. Mehlhaff was one of the team's leading tacklers with more than 50 tackles. He kicked a 52-yard field goal against Rapid City Stevens. Most of Mehlhaff's kickoffs were touchbacks this season, including the one against Pierre that he kicked from his own 20 after a Pierre safety. Mehlhaff has a 3.6 GPA and plays left wing on the hockey team.


Minnesota was thought to be his favorite after visiting Minneapolis, but Wisconsin did a good job of narrowing that gap and Charles admitted that it will be a tough decision.


"I don't know what the deciding factor is going to be. The guys at Minnesota are great coaches and treated him well. He feels that he's wanted at both places," Charles said.


"We had a nice visit in Wisconsin. We went to the Wisconsin–Michigan State basketball game and Wisconsin-Michigan Tech hockey game. They have great fan support with 17,000 fans at the basketball game."


"Taylor is turned on by walking in a big crowd at a stadium. He saw Wisconsin and got that feeling again."


"That is one negative about Minnesota that they do not have a stadium on-campus."


Taylor grew up following Nebraska when he was younger, according to his father.


"Nebraska was his first love growing up. He took an unofficial visit to Nebraska for the Texas A&M game and loved the stadium and the crowd. We're not sure with the coaching change. They are honest about it in their calls. The coaches, who are talking to him, might not have jobs with a new coach coming in. The situation is at a standstill."


Charles said that Taylor might want to play baseball in college. Wisconsin does not have a baseball team, which could help the Gophers.


"That is one of our concerns. We talked to the Wisconsin coaches about that."


Taylor runs track (4x100 and 4x200 relay, 200 and 400, his specialty) and plays spring baseball. He pitches, catches and plays second base and shortstop. Charles thought that he could be a good outfielder in college, if he wants to.


Some of the Wisconsin players participate in summer baseball and Charles said that might be a possibility for Taylor, if he went to Wisconsin.


Taylor is currently playing on the hockey team as a left wing. He got off to a slow start, due to a hip flexor, which bothered him during the football season and the long football campaign. The team started practice in mid-October and the football team played until mid-November as they advanced to the state finals.


He and a few football teammates took another couple weeks off to recuperate from nagging football injuries, then Taylor suffered a twisted ankle.


Charles said that being sidelined was tough for his son.


"He hates to not compete."


Hockey is not a school-sanctioned sport in South Dakota, but they play teams in Brookings and Sioux Falls.


"They are like 7-5. They have a lot of young kids, but they have a good team. They are the #3 team in the state."


Charles said that Taylor will not make a decision until next week. Taylor is attending the Chris Sailer kicking camp in Las Vegas this weekend."


"He is going to lay low. We will go to Las Vegas for the camp. The schools deserve our decision as soon as possible, but we are not going to be rushed."


"I wish that he would have started earlier on the recruiting process. It really did not start until his junior season after Chris Sailer's camp. It's a new experience to us."


Charles said that there are other schools still involved in his son's recruitment, but that they are probably on the outside looking in.


"Ohio State is probably out of the picture. They are expected to sign a kicker who has attended their football camps. Texas A&M is coming tomorrow. South Carolina has talked about coming up as well. They've offered him a scholarship. Rice was the first team to offer him a scholarship and they are still out there."


"It's a process that I don't completely understand."


Taylor did not get a chance to attend a Gopher game this season, due to his busy football schedule and the distance from Aberdeen, said Charles.


"I wish that we could have made a game. Despite not having a stadium, I am sure that they have a good atmosphere. Unlike the other schools on his list, the Gophers have to compete with the Twins, Vikings, Timberwolves and Wild. But, they get as much respect as expected."


Wisconsin special teams and outside linebackers coach Brian Murphy has been in charge of recruiting Taylor and Charles said that Murphy has told them how important getting a top-notch kicker is for them.


"Coach Murphy said they want to upgrade the kicker position. Every year they went to the Rose Bowl, they had a good kicking game."


Charles said that Murphy called Taylor during the Music City Bowl workouts in Nashville and said they would offer him a double scholarship, since their kickers were struggling so much.


"He said that we don't want our fans to have to cross their fingers in the stands. They've had good kickers like current Washington Redskin John Hall when they went to the Rose Bowl in the past and coach Murphy said that their fans are looking forward to that."


Charles said the Gophers have told him that he might redshirt as a freshman, unless he is able to kickoff. The Gophers return Rhys Lloyd, the hero of the Sun Bowl who doubled as punter and kicker.


Wisconsin had junior Mike Allen and senior Scott Campbell as their kicker. Junior R.J. Morse handled the punting duties.


"They were happy to let him workout this weekend."


Charles said that Taylor is looking forward to attending the Chris Sailer kicking camp. Sailer was a two-time consensus All-American as both place-kicker and punter at UCLA. He holds the UCLA record for longest field goal (56 yards) and is a current member of the Lou Groza Collegiate National Place-Kicker of the Year Award voting committee.


Charles said that Sailer was instrumental in Taylor's success as a kicker.


"Chris is a technician who understands punters and kickers. His recommendation helped Taylor gets his national ranking. Taylor had the best kickoff leg at his camp last year. He averaged kicking five yards deep in the end zone from the 40.


Taylor was voted as one of the top 12 kickers after last year's event and that started the ball rolling as more and more schools expressed interest in Mehlhaff.


"After that, we knew we were in for better things. His elevation of the ball and hang time was what they were looking for. Coaches listen to Chris. Taylor will likely be an instructor with him in the future."


"He will be moving back five yards in college, kicking from the 35. Five yards is not going to be a problem. He'll add five yards to his kicking."


Charles said that Gopher running back coach Vic Adamle and guard and center coach Gordon Shaw are expected to attend the camp in Las Vegas. He said that Coach Murphy and the Wisconsin quarterback coach will also attend.


"It is a great camp. They have two fields with pro turf. 150 kickers are expected to attend. Twenty coaches attended last year and they expect more this year. Who knows, maybe another school will see Taylor."


Charles said that he became close friends with some of the other kickers from last year's camp.


"They formed their own fraternity. Taylor talks to several of them every week. Aaron Perez is going to UCLA and Obi Egekeze recently announced that he is going to Maryland and they talk two, three times a week.


Charles admitted that it will likely be difficult for his son to specialize on just one position. He played kicker, punter, defensive back and quarterback in high school and rarely left the field.


"We talked to the Wisconsin coaches about him staying busy. When he watched the Gophers' kickers and snapper, they did their stuff and then stood around. Taylor will find something to do. His goal is to kick in the NFL."


Gopher fans are hoping that before he kicks in the NFL, that he will be booting field goals for Minnesota.


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