When senior running back Brandon Dean tore his ACL and MCL in Week 1 of the 2008 season, Glades Day (Fla.) School coach Pete Walker turned to the next man up -- an eighth grader.
"It was pretty easy to see that he was the best tailback we had [left]," Walker said.
Indeed. That eighth grader finished the season with 1,584 rushing yards and 28 touchdowns.
One would have figured that facing seasoned upperclassmen, four years older and with physiques to match, would have been intimidating for a junior high kid.
"It wasn't at all, man," Kelvin Taylor said. "I was ready."
Taylor was prepared, having trained the previous summer with his father, Jacksonville Jaguars running back Fred Taylor, and some of his NFL friends -- Frank Gore, Byron Leftwich and Maurice Jones-Drew.
"I try to learn everything I could possibly learn from those guys," Kelvin said.
And he's clearly inherited the vision, moves and speed/power combination from his dad, a former Pro Bowler.
But Kelvin, now 18, has dominated the high school ranks in a way even his father did not.
"He's a better player," Fred said, "just his football IQ alone."
Ranked by Rivals.com as the 47th best player in the 2013 class, the 5-11, 215-pound senior and future Florida Gator has not only set the all-time rushing and touchdown mark in Florida, he also could break the all-time national mark of 11,232 rushing yards.
"You know he's getting the ball every play and you still can't stop him," said coach Bill Powers, whose Jupiter Christian (Fla.) School team has faced Glades Day seven times during the past four years. "He's as good as anyone I've ever seen."
Kelvin enrolled at Glades Day because of its academics and the chance to play varsity football at such an early age. Small, private schools like Glades Day, which has just 340 K-12 students, sometimes have to include junior high students just to fill out their varsity rosters.
The original plan was for Kelvin to transfer to football powerhouse Glades Central High, another Palm Beach County school and alma mater of his parents, for high school, but he enjoyed Glades Day so much that he stayed at the smaller school where he won state titles in 2009 and 2010.
Kelvin's mother, Tiffany Campbell-McGrew, with whom he lives, is a former Glades Central cheerleader and was Fred's high school sweetheart.
The couple never married, but Fred, 36, remains close with his son. They talk or text a few times a week, and Fred, who lives in Weston, Fla., attends five or six of Kelvin's football games each year.
The closeness extends to their running styles. Kelvin possesses the power, nimbleness and start-and-stop ability Fred displayed while averaging 4.6 yards a carry during his 13-year NFL career.
"Of course," Walker said, "he reminds me of his dad."
But Fred said his son is more advanced than he was at the same age. Kelvin already has developed a jump cut move, a signature juke his father did not master until his junior year of college.
Kelvin, who has 4.48 speed in the 40, also claims to be faster than his dad, though that declaration elicited chuckles from both Kelvin and Fred. Even their offseason workouts, featuring high intensity conditioning, weightlifting and position-specific drills with NFL players and under the watch of trainer Pete Bommarito, is accompanied by father-son ribbing.
"We just mess around," Kelvin said, "and I always say, ‘I'm going to be better.'"
Retorted Fred: "If I see a weakness, I'll talk trash to see how he responds ... You can't let an old man get in your head."
On Nov. 11, 2011, Glades Day ran 55 Power with Taylor taking the ball off the left side and sprinting past the South Fork (Fla.) High defense for a 34-yard touchdown.
That touchdown run was not only part of a 34-carry, 388-yard, six-touchdown performance, it also established a new career yardage record for Florida.
The previous recordholder, Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith, gained 8,804 from 1983-86 at Escambia High in Pensacola.
To commemorate Taylor's feat, Smith, another Florida Gators product, gave him an autographed football with the rushing record emblazoned on it.
Taylor entered the 2012 season with 9,698 yards -- 1,534 (3,118 if you exclude his eighth grade year) behind the all-time mark.
Ken Hall, who went on to play for Bear Bryant at Texas A&M and for three NFL franchises, holds the all-time national mark, rushing for 11,232 yards for Sugar Land (Texas) High from 1950-53.
Detractors claim that if Taylor breaks Hall's record he would have done it in five years and against lesser competition. Though Glades Day's program has won seven state titles, it plays in Florida's smallest classification.
But Walker points out that Taylor bested Smith's state mark in four years (eight grade through his junior season) and often sat out the second half of blowouts.
Regardless, those numbers show his ability as a workhorse back.
Glades Day runs a power offense similar to Nick Saban's system at Alabama -- which had been one of the finalists to land Taylor -- and Taylor fulfills the old adage of a running back who gets stronger as the game goes on.
During the 2010 state semifinals, Taylor already had run the ball 30-plus times against Jupiter Christian. Behind with no timeouts left and inside its own 30-yard-line, the Glades Day coaching staff had planned to pass -- until Taylor insisted that he would run for a touchdown.
With just more than a minute left, Taylor did just that, running off tackle for a 74-yard score to win the game, 35-29.
"It was heart-wrenching to watch," Powers said.
As he did against Jupiter Christian, Taylor can explode through the hole and outrun defenders, but his best skill might be his ability to elude even the most fundamentally sound tacklers.
"You know you've got to break down," said Glades Day FB/LB Colton McKillican, "because he's going to try to shake you. He'll put the moves on you."
McKillican has seen that elusiveness -- along with Taylor's speed and strength -- up close.
During the Oklahoma drill -- notably called the "Miami" drill at Glades Day -- linebackers have to shed off a blocker and tackle the running back. Taylor plowed through McKillican, one of the team's best players, 10 consecutive times at one practice.
"Every time he would just come after me and just run over me," McKillican said. "And I'd be dead."
Playing from 1998-2008 for the Jaguars and 2009-10 with the Patriots, Fred Taylor ranks 15th in NFL history with 11,695 rushing yards.
But he doesn't hammer his son on fundamentals. While preaching ball security, he simply tells him to trust his eyes and enjoy the game.
"I just let him go and be natural," Fred said.
Fred, who played at Florida, was similarly hands off with Kelvin's college recruitment. But citing both his closeness to the coaching staff and the proximity to home, Kelvin decided to follow in his father's footsteps at Gainesville.
He is well on his way to continuing the Taylor legacy. Glades Day's nickname is also the Gators, and Kelvin has performed the Gator Chomp during games. He wears No. 21, the same number his father wore in high school and college.
He will sport that same number at Florida, too, an honor that has his father beaming.
"It hasn't hit me completely," Fred said. "I smile every now and then when I think about it."
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