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FOREVER AN UNDERDOG: Jadrian Taylor's long road to the NFL draft

After a life's worth of adversity, UTEP defensive end and Lufkin alum Jadrian Taylor is hoping to hear his name called during the 2023 NFL draft.

CROCKETT, Texas — The NFL Draft begins Thursday with several East Texans expected to be drafted. 

Tyree Wilson, DeMarvion Overshown and Kendre Miller are all set to represent the region from power five programs, but University of Texas at El Paso defensive end Jadrian Taylor hopes to hear his name called as well.

“I should be in the same conversation as anybody else because of my stats and accomplishments at UTEP,” Taylor said.

In his senior season, Taylor tallied 42 total tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles, and one fumble recovery.

When it comes to football, Taylor been an underdog. The edge rusher attended Lufkin high school and didn't start a full varsity season until his senior year.

“That's funny because that's what he's done his whole entire life," Lufkin head football coach Todd Quick said. "He got here as a freshman and played on the freshman team but when he moved up to be a sophomore, there was so much depth. Too many players were good here at defensive end. We had tried him at linebacker, tried him in some other positions but he had to wait his turn. And sometimes that's hard to do.”

After Lufkin, Taylor went on to walk on at Kilgore College where he would be a redshirt freshman. Getting on the field was a constant struggle, but his mom was there every step of the way.

“I would be like, don't worry you know you're not starting but it's okay, you're going to get there," Janeta Bacon said, Taylor's mom. "Just keep doing what you got to do and as soon as your foot hit the field, show them what you're working with.”

After proving himself on the division one level, leading Conference USA in sacks, UTEP held their pro day and Taylor pulled his hamstring while running the 40-yard dash.

“I felt like I was through," Taylor said. "I thought they wouldn't have recruited me anymore, that they wouldn't mess me no more.”

Taylor then consulted with his agent who reassured him that he had enough tape to get him to the NFL, like his viral 40-yard dash, clocked at 4.38 seconds, and his mom couldn’t be more proud.

"I can't express how proud I am," Bacon said. "I guess if the reward of being a mom was seeing your children be successful then I guess God blessed me to see that."

If Taylor makes the league, he’ll join a long list of NFL players from Lufkin High School like Dez Bryant, Don Muhlbach and Keke Coutee. 

"Just them doing that from this small town is what made him think 'OK, I can do this, I can try too,'" Bacon said.

The NFL begins Thursday, April 27 (Round 1) | Friday, April 28 (Rounds 2-3) | Saturday, April 29 (Rounds 4-7).

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