Gotta stay humble

Bombers punt returner Ramonce Taylor tosses the ball during practice on Wednesday. (Sun Media/Brian...

Bombers punt returner Ramonce Taylor tosses the ball during practice on Wednesday. (Sun Media/Brian Donogh)

KIRK PENTON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:34 AM ET

Ramonce Taylor had no trouble figuring out where his life hit rock bottom.

It was easy because the Winnipeg Blue Bombers receiver-returner had plenty of time to think about it.

"The low point was when I actually went to prison and was sitting in segregation, just sitting there by myself," Taylor said yesterday. "I had one hour out of a 24-hour day to go out and see daylight."

Taylor was sentenced to five months in Texas' Bartlett State Jail last February for violating five terms of his probation. He was on probation because of a May 2006 incident in which he was caught with more than four pounds of marijuana in his car.

His fault

Taylor won't discuss exactly what happened that night, but he has claimed in the past that the drugs weren't his. He admitted yesterday that it was still his fault for running with the wrong people and for being in that situation.

At the sentencing hearing, Taylor's mother, Ramona Clark, got so upset that she lost consciousness as she was being escorted from the court room.

"I saw that I'm not just hurting myself, but I'm hurting the people around me, too," Taylor said. "So I had to take that upon myself not to let that happen again. She put me in this world, so I have to make her the happiest person ever."

Taylor was well on his way to making his mom quite proud of him just a few years ago. He won the NCAA championship with the University of Texas in January 2006 when Vince Young and the Longhorns beat Matt Leinart and the USC Trojans in the Rose Bowl.

Taylor, who was a running back in college, had 1,219 all-purpose yards and 15 touchdowns that season and added a 30-yard rushing major in the national championship game.

"The touchdown I scored was a good point in my life," he said. "I cherish that game a whole lot."

Five months later he was charged with felony marijuana possession, and shortly after that Texas head coach Mack Brown took away his scholarship for academic reasons. His time with the Longhorns was over, and his life was about to spiral out of control.

His five-month jail sentence was called "shock probation," and the judge said it was his last chance to turn his life around. Spending 23 of 24 hours a day alone in his cell did the trick -- so far.

"I had to get closer to God and have God lead me to the right way, because if I didn't I probably would've had a nervous breakdown," he admitted. "That's not a place you wish on your worst enemy."

Showed talent

Taylor got out of prison last summer and back into football with the af2's Rio Grande Valley Dorados earlier this year. After one game, Bombers director of player personnel John Murphy came calling and Taylor showed enough talent at one of Winnipeg's tryout camps to earn a contract.

Now he appears to be the front-runner for Winnipeg's kick return job. He has also been getting plenty of reps at receiver.

"I don't know if I've seen anybody catch punts as relaxed as he does," head coach Mike Kelly said. "He's very natural at what he does, but he's got a long way to go. He's raw.

"He has a long way to go in learning how to play the game and how to play his position, but his natural skills certainly are impressive."

Two of Taylor's probation violations were for positive drug tests, but he vows that drugs and alcohol are no longer part of his life. He keeps on the straight and narrow by living a solitary kind of lifestyle, not unlike his time in Bartlett State Jail.

"I stay away from all of that," said Taylor, who still talks to Brown, his coach at Texas, a few times a month. "I get involved with some of the guys on the team to go over plays, but other than that I'm to myself, in my room just kicking it, relaxing. I'm here for a job, and I don't have time for the other stuff.

"... I'm just happy to be back out here. I took advantage of being in the spotlight back in the U.S. and let the spotlight get the best of me. So I'm just out here having fun. I just gotta stay humble."

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Read Kirk Penton's Bomber Beat blog at winnipegsun.com/blogs


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