Af Dennis Vestergaard
Foto: SGD Media – Ralf Dietrich

Sam Taylor (#9), linebacker, er én af Søllerød Gold Diggers’ amerikanske imports. Sam er en spiller, der spiller med en en enorm energi og attitude på forsvaret. Han har ikke mindre end 72 taklinger (12 pr. kamp) i grundspillets 6 kamp. Det er Sams første sæson i Europa, og hvilken sæson han har gang i. Sam fortæller lidt om sin football-opdragelse i USA og hvad det betyder for ham, at hjælpe Gold Diggers tilbage på toppen af dansk football,

Who are you outside of football?
There’s really not that much to me that’s interesting outside of football. Right now if been working as a server and when I’m not at work or training my favorite pastime is to sit at home with my fur baby and watch tv. He’s the sweetest, most loving little guy you’ve ever met and he’s my best friend so I just like spending as much time with him as I can. Past that I enjoy most outdoor activities, going to bars, and listening to music.

Can you tell a little about your football background and how you ended up with the Gold Diggers?
I started playing in 4th grade. Other than 7th grade, which was out of my control, I spent all of middle and high school delving into football. When my senior year came up I made a childish decision and said that if I couldn’t go into the SEC I wouldn’t play anywhere, which was absurd seeing as how I was barely 182 cm and only 83 kilos playing as a linebacker. I had some offers from low tier D1 schools but I turned them down because I was fixated on playing “with the best.” Well, a year later football season rolled around again and I realized I had made a mistake. Unfortunately, none of the schools that were interested in me before wanted a kid that turned them down and spent a year off the field so none of my offers were viable anymore. I then got in contact with some other schools and chose Lyon College to be my team. I had received the offer from the head coach, who decided to have no consultation with any of his staff before doing so. He then quit the week before fall camp started. I showed up not knowing anyone and the Defensive Coordinator did not appreciate my being given a scholarship without his consent. He showed this by forcing me to sit on the sidelines the entirety of the next two years, no matter the situation. I got lucky though. Going into my junior year a new head coach was hired, and he cleaned house. His name is Casey Creehan, he had coached in the CFL for nearly two decades and he brought in an entirely new and much more talented staff and decided to evaluate all of us in person before making any decisions. I was starting in a week. I then went on to set two school records for tackles the next year and then reset one of those records my senior year. After that I sat down with my coach and asked him what he thought my chances were of playing in the CFL, as that was the lowest professional arena I was aware of at the time. He told me that playing at 83 kilos would be impossible to get in but that if I could gain weight he thought I had a chance. Unfortunately, I had never been able to surpass 83 kg since turning 16 years old, no matter the diet or training regimen. At this point, I decided to give up the pursuit of my dream, until my coach told me about europlayers. I set out messaging every team I could. I had some interest, and was close to going to the GFL 2, but after I had looked over the contract that team sent me and let them know that I would sign, they went quiet for a couple days and then got back to me saying they had chosen a different player to offer for that year. The rest of the teams I had been discussing with had either already taken imports for the year or were canceled due to COVID. I set out working while hoping maybe the next year around my luck would change. Over the next year, I was somehow able to break through my plateau and get up to 97 kilos. Using this new information, paired with my hudl tape and the fact that I had been able to keep my speed during the weight gain, I reached out to another round of teams. However, this time I also messaged the Gold Diggers, and so began the road of discussions that lead to my signing and being here for the 2021 season!

What is one important lesson you’ve learned from your time as an athlete?
I have learned many lessons during my time in athletics. So many that I sometimes forget some and have to relearn them. It would be difficult to choose a most important lesson, so I will use the one I’ve learned time and time again, and even coined a phrase for during my sophomore year of high school. “Always grateful, never satisfied.” I have accomplished a lot in my life. I’ve lived in 8 states, moved 25 times, and known more football players than I can count. But out of all of them, I’ve only known two besides myself that have had the privilege to write “professional” on their resume. I’ve worked very hard and I’m very grateful for the records I’ve broken or the titles I’ve been bestowed. However, I will always be striving to be the best. I have an endless appetite. I don’t care how high I’ve climbed, I will not be satiated, and I will try to fly higher and higher until I become the best linebacker ever to play the game.

What’s the best advice a coach has ever given you?
The best advice I’ve ever gotten from a coach was “slow is smooth, smooth is fast.” We have so many players trying to go too quickly, move too fast, and do too much. This really just helps you to settle down, take your time, and remember your basics. Going through your read steps, getting your eyes in the right place, taking time to see the play declare. It allows you to move fluidly, and the more fluid you are, the faster you are. In this day and age speed is everything, especially as a defensive player. If you can’t run with offensive players there’s no way you can continuously shut them down, so it’s been really helpful through the years to get new things down.

What’s your favorite Danish dish?
Flødekartofler. I could eat that by itself for a meal every day. When I go to a grill out or anything here I have a teammate that brings an extra dish of it that I eat by myself straight out of the pan.

How do you keep your teammates feeling positive and motivated after a loss?
There’s not much I can do to keep a team feeling positive after a game. Every coach I’ve ever had, especially my most effective and decorated coach that really helped me to get better as a player, has you sit in the loss. You should embrace the feeling so that you realize you hate it and never want to go through it again. People shrug off failure too quickly these days. You shouldn’t let it consume you, but you can’t ignore it either. When we lose, and I always strongly encourage my teammates to do the same, I go home immediately after the game. No going out, no having drinks, no music in the showers. You go home and go to bed and process the loss. Then the next day we come back to work and figure out what exactly was wrong and try our hardest to never have that feeling again. So, as far as positivity goes, I don’t invest much in it after losses, only in the motivation of asking a teammate if they want to feel that way again.

1st Down Photo

How would your teammates describe you?
What I think and hope the description is would be resembling Brian Dawkins. I’m by no means a full on quiet person off the field, but I’m much more reserved. But then I think they would say that when I step onto the turf I become a crazy, wild animal that will rip off an opponent’s head and laugh in the face of their teammates about it.

The Gold Diggers haven’t won a ring since 2010 and haven’t played a Mermaid Bowl since 2017. What does it mean for you to help the Gold Diggers back on top?
It means the world to me that we’re back to making an appearance, and I fully intend to win a ring, but it’s not all me that’s brought them up. It’s impossible to win games by yourself. I like to think that I’ve played my part in bringing us to where we are this season, but every player is replaceable. Us being back in the running for a ring this year just shows the teamwork exhibited by every player we have on the field. How well we work together as a defense, how hard we’ve worked to be on the same page as an offense. It really just speaks to the natural fit we all have together this year. Really good teammates that are able to play well off each other.

How high does the Mermaid Bowl rank in your career so far?
The mermaid bowl ranks at the top of my career so far. I’ve never been on a team that could make it past the playoff rounds to a championship game so I’m extremely excited at the possibility to actually win it all!

Two overtime wins against the Towers so far. What’s going to be the difference in the Mermaid Bowl and why are the Gold Diggers winning this third matchup?
We’re going to win the matchup because we’ve gotten a little bit better with each game. As for our offense, that just means that they’ll be able to score even more on the towers than before. As for the defense, we’ll be causing them to score even less than they did this past game. My goal for this game is no overtime because they shouldn’t be able to put up as many points on us as last time and we should put up more.