Blue and Gold Illustrated

February 2021

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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36 FEBRUARY 2021 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY LOU SOMOGYI N ever in Notre Dame football history has the future, present and past along the offensive line been more prominent than the past several years. The future is replete with premier prospects signed, most recently a five-man harvest led by five-star Blake Fisher and top-five guard Rocco Spindler. Part of the reason for the ap- peal toward Notre Dame by that position group is in 2019 Fighting Irish alumni astound- ingly comprised three of the five first-team All-Pro posi- tions with guards Zack Mar- tin and Quenton Nelson, plus tackle Ronnie Stanley. Nelson was on the unit a third straight season this year, while Martin and Stanley had their 2020 campaigns cut short by injuries. Overall, seven different Irish of- fensive line alumni were starters in the NFL in 2020 — and four more are projected to be drafted this spring: tackles Liam Eichenberg and Robert Hainsey, plus guards Aaron Banks and Tommy Kraemer, linchpins for Notre Dame's second College Foot- ball Playoff appearance in three years. The past has included 1988 con- sensus All-American and first-round pick Andy Heck coaching the Kansas City offensive line to a Super Bowl title last February — while Notre Dame alumnus Mike McGlinchey started on the other side for San Francisco. The two 2003 Fighting Irish re- cruits along the offensive line saw John Sullivan start at center for the Los Angeles Rams two years ago in the Super Bowl, while Ryan Harris opened every game for the 2015 Su- per Bowl champion Denver Broncos. Harris is now the color analyst for the Notre Dame Football Network. Finally, on Jan. 11 another blast from the past featured 1990-93 Notre Dame offensive lineman and two- time consensus All-American Aaron Taylor selected as one of 11 players and two coaches to be enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame's 2021 class. Taylor achieved his consensus All- America status first as a guard (1992) and then left tackle (1993). As a se- nior, the Lombardi Award winner be- came one of only 35 unanimous All- America selections in Notre Dame's football annals. Along the way, the captain-elect helped facilitate the second-longest winning streak (17) at the school over the past 70 years. A vocal, gregarious and witty fig- ure, Taylor parlayed his eloquence and gift of gab into a role as a studio analyst at CBS Sports since 2008, and as a popular public speaker on team- work and performance at summits, corporate retreats and universities. He knows of what he speaks, too. BEFORE THE GLORY Growing up in Northern Califor- nia as the only child in a single-par- ent household and near the ghetto, Taylor said he started to live the "knucklehead" lifestyle that embraced reckless behav- ior and had law enforcement regularly nipping on his heels, including getting involved in a motorcycle theft. When Taylor was 14, his mother, Mardi, a registered nurse (who passed away three years ago), made the tough- love decision to kick him out of the house. "I was just a kid that was lost and didn't believe anything, didn't have anybody but my mom that believed in me," he said. "I needed some direction, and once she kicked me out of the house because I was out all night doing things a 14-year- old shouldn't be doing, it was a wake-up call." Five days later after living with some friends, Taylor re- turned home with defined dreams academically and athletically. "She asked me what I wanted to do, and I said I want to play pro foot- ball," Taylor said. "That night there was a story on TV about the school across the Bay in Concord, Calif. — De La Salle." It was one of the nation's elite foot- ball superpowers. "Fortuitous things happened from there," Taylor said. "Mom found a job there, and knew a lady right down the street from the school with a house for rent. … All this crazy stuff in the universe just opened up. "Then I started to find out the harder I worked the better I got." A consensus high school All- American, Taylor in 1992-93 became the 16th — and still most recent — two-time consensus All-American in Notre Dame history. The first-round draft pick went on to earn millions in the NFL, man- aged his money wisely and even started every game at guard for the 1996 Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers. Knee problems finally ended his football career at the turn TOP OF THE LINE Notre Dame's newest College Football Hall of Fame inductee Aaron Taylor has given back in many ways Taylor was Notre Dame's last two-time consensus All-American, achiev- ing the honor in 1992-93, and the 16th in program history. PHOTO COURTESY NOTRE DAME MEDIA RELATIONS

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