North Carolina defensive end Hilee Taylor posted 10.5 sacks as a senior, but he wanted to make sure that scouts and coaches who attended his pro day saw more from him than just his blazing straight-line speed.
"I was trying to convey to pro scouts that I'm more than just a defensive end," he told Scout.com during an exclusive interview. "They hadn't seen me drop in coverage as much, so I wanted to prove that I have good lateral movement and speed as well as good straight-ahead speed. I trained strictly at linebacker only to find out that I'd workout at D-End, so the expectations were higher than what I thought."
Although he started all 12 games during his junior year, Taylor had just three sacks, 29 tackles and five tackles for a loss in comparison to his 10.5 sacks, 49 tackles, 16 tackles for a loss and forced three fumbles in 2007.
"Not saying anything about the coaching we had in the previous years, but the coaching that came in this year used our abilities to get us in situations where we can make plays," he explained when asked about the difference in his output. "It wasn't the defensive line just holding gaps for the linebackers anymore. Coach wanted us to make plays and said we were just as athletic as they were.
"Across the board, on the defensive line, our confidence skyrocketed because we were allowed to make plays. So we took the opportunity and ran away with it."
Ask the speedy defensive end — who was reportedly clocked at 4.58 seconds in the 40 at his pro day — what his favorite move is when he needs to get into the backfield quickly to make a play, and he'll tell you that for him it's a pretty simple equation.
"Just beating him off the ball so bad that he can't do much because I'm already by him," Taylor said. "That's the one move I can rely on. When he has to run to try to get to me, it's too late."
Not surprisingly, Taylor says he watches a lot of film of the Colts' superstar defensive end, Dwight Freeney, before games.
Hilee Taylor charges across the line in pursuit of another sack.
Photo: UNC Athletics
"He has the spin move down," he said. "The main thing with him is that he beats opponents off the ball to where if they try to run, so much of their weight is back that he blows by them. Or he has them going so far up vertically, he spins to the inside.
"The key to Dwight Freeney is his takeoff. His takeoff allows him to do whatever he wants with the offensive tackle."
Prior to his pro day, Taylor said that he was mainly drawing interest from 3-4 defense teams that saw the 6-foot-3, 242-pound lineman as a linebacker in their scheme. But as a result of his offseason performance, he's also drawing interest from 4-3 defense teams as a lineman.
"There were quite a few teams," he said. "The Patriots, the Jaguars, Cowboys, Raiders, quite a few teams that I talked to here and there. I'm looking at it as I'm blessed to even be looked at, but I'm trying to keep it going and trying to be a better player."
Roughly a week after his pro day, Taylor worked out for the linebackers coach of the New England Patriots on March 12.
"He put me through a lot of drills where I had to react and a lot of drills where I had to keep my head up — like running over the bags with my head up, facing opposite of me and having me turn around quick and catch the ball — a lot of drills that see what kind of eyes you have.
"I can see why their program is so good. Towards the end I did some pass rushing and he showed me some things that can help me get to the quarterback."
Six days later, he worked out for the Jaguars' linebackers coach.
"He put me through drills that tested my flexibility, my hands, how well I catch the ball, how my heels work — drills that showed me why they have a good defense.
"I've been fortunate to have great coaches come and work me out and try to help me out. Whatever they tell me to do, I absorb that, and then try to workout on my own."
The Jaguars were obviously impressed with what they saw as Taylor will be visiting Jacksonville on April 15-16. He's currently in Green Bay for a Friday visit with the Packers. And he'll be visiting with the New York Giants next week on April 14-15.
As he thought about those visits, Taylor didn't seem to be rattled in the least because he just planned to be himself.
"That's all I can do, I'm not going to try to sugarcoat that, I know it's a job interview and I'm going to try to just be myself," he said. "Whatever they ask me, I'll tell them. If they want to see how my knowledge is, I'll just tell them what I know.
"I expect the coaches to know I'm just being myself, but at the same time I'm always learning and seeing how I can better myself and become a better football player."