Taylor returns to make mark
By WES GILBERTSON, QMI Agency
|Larry Taylor is a confident guy — he's all smiles at Calgary Stampeders' training camp believing he's got a foothold on the team's kick-return game. (QMI Agency/Al Charest)
CALGARY - If job security is a major consideration, Larry Taylor doesn’t have the most appealing gig at McMahon Stadium.
For as long as a lot of football fans can remember, returning kickoffs for the Calgary Stampeders has been a seasonal position.
As in, one CFL season and then somebody else takes over the duty.
In fact, you have to go all the way back to Marvin Coleman’s heyday in the late-1990s to find the last time the same guy led the Stamps in kickoff return yardage in back-to-back campaigns, a surprising trend that Larry Taylor wants to put an end to in 2012.
“It’s time to break the curse,” Taylor said with a grin. “I’m not going nowhere, so it’s time to break the curse.”
If you’re looking for a juicy training camp battle at McMahon Stadium, this isn’t it. Taylor, 27, enters his second season with the Stamps as the undisputed go-to guy in the return game.
It’s been awhile since that happened.
Marvin Coleman was the Stamps’ leading kickoff retriever five times in a six-season span from 1995-2000, but since his departure, it’s been rare for a return man to, uh, return to his starring role.
Antonio Warren, Raymonn Adams and James Hundon each fielded the bulk of kickoffs for the Red & White for a single season. After that, it was Sulecio Sanford, Ronney Jenkins and, finally, J.R. Ruffin, who put 1,461 kickoff return yards — 40 yards shy of Warren’s franchise record — under his cleats in 2006 but was pestered by a serious knee injury the next season and was never the same.
In recent years, Markus Howell, Demetris Summers, Titus Ryan and Deon Murphy have each had a brief hold on the job.
Anxious to stop the revolving door among return men, Stamps GM/head coach John Hufnagel made a big splash on the free-agent market by signing the pint-sized speedster last off-season.
The CFL’s Special Teams Player of the Year in 2009 as a member of the Montreal Alouettes, Taylor didn’t disappoint in his first campaign in Calgary. He racked up 1,008 yards on kickoff returns — one of only two CFLers to hit quadruple-digits in 2011 — and added 538 yards on punts and 232 yards and a touchdown on missed field goals. Thanks to some duties on offence, he finished fourth in the league with 1,984 total yards.
With numbers like that, it’s no wonder the Stamps will stick with Taylor for a second season.
For his part, the former University of Connecticut Huskies standout doesn’t just want to do the job again. He wants to do it even better.
“I feel more dangerous this year than previous years. I know what I’m capable of doing, and I know what this team is capable of doing as a special-teams unit. I feel like every year should be a better year,” Taylor said. “I’m never satisfied. From watching the film and going over things with (Stamps special-teams co-ordinator Mark Kilam), I feel there were some plays that were left out on the field. We can’t take them back now, but I’m just looking forward to this year to get those plays when those opportunities present themselves.
“I’m looking forward to just making a lot of big plays this season, returning touchdowns and constantly giving the offence good field position.”
On Twitter: @SUNGilbertson