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Apr 22, 2024

Will Taylor – A True Tiger Teammate

By: Chris Perry

The following appears in the latest issue of Orange: The Experience. For full access to all of the publication’s content, join IPTAY today by calling 864-656-2115.

To a Palmetto State sports fanatic, the last name “Taylor” needs no introduction.

Clemson outfielder Will Taylor grew up in Irmo, right outside of Columbia. He attended Dutch Fork High School and Ben Lippen School, as he lettered five times in baseball, five times in track & field, four times in football and four times in wrestling. Taylor was a three-time state champion in wrestling, a member of the state title football team and a member of the state championship track & field squad.

While these accolades may seem impressive, they come as no surprise to anyone who knows the family. Taylor’s sister, Erin, was a state champion herself, as she holds the state long-jump record. His brother, Paul, is a freshman outfielder for The Citadel. His father, Eddie, was a wrestler at The Citadel. Above all, Taylor credits his family’s interest in sports to their late grandfather, Ed, who played baseball and football at The Citadel.

“I come from a really athletic family. We get most of our athleticism from our grandfather. I have two older sisters who are really competitive, and a younger brother who is 17 months younger than I am. My brother and I grew up the same size, same height and same weight.”

While Taylor committed to Clemson for baseball following his sophomore year at Ben Lippen School, he was always set on playing two sports in college. Even after his baseball commitment, Taylor continued to excel in football, and through attending Clemson football camps, he was able to catch the eye of Head Coach Dabo Swinney, who offered him a scholarship on the Tiger football team.

“I’ve always had a dream to play two sports, so I wrote it down on my goals list. My family and I have a goals list every year that we put on the kitchen door. Looking at that every day inspired and motivated me. I called up Coach (Monte) Lee and Coach Swinney and was asking if it was possible to do both, and they were very encouraging and supportive.”

Many spectators began to believe Taylor’s plans of enrolling at Clemson might shift when he was projected as one of the top MLB draft prospects heading into his senior season at Dutch Fork High School. Taylor was eventually drafted by the Texas Rangers in the 19th round of the 2021 MLB draft, although he had the opportunity to be drafted in the first round if he so desired. However, Taylor remained firm on attending Clemson and earning his degree.

“For me, it wasn’t about the money. I believed there was no better opportunity then here at Clemson to play two sports, grow up in my faith, grow up as a man and also get my degree at such a prestigious university. As soon as the draft was over, I never looked back. I’ve had so many great memories and opportunities here that I could have never paid for.”

Upon a highly anticipated arrival onto the college football scene in the fall of 2021, Taylor was struck with adversity when he tore his ACL in an early-season game. This was the first time Taylor dealt with an injury this severe, and he credited his resilience to his work ethic that he instilled in himself from a young age.

“It was the first time I had to overcome something in my life. It was the first time I had to dig deep as a person and as an athlete, so it challenged me in all areas of my life, on the field and off the field, physically and mentally. It was finding the good in everything that happens and finding the good in all the bad that happens.”

Taylor’s resilience and perseverance through injury eventually paid off following a historic sophomore campaign, when he became the first college athlete since 1989 to be an ACC champion as a member of both a football and baseball team. Taylor led the Tiger baseball team to becoming not only the ACC champion, but a regional host of the NCAA Tournament. He was awarded with the team’s Most Improved Award for his efforts.

“It goes to show that there’s a lot of great coaches and a lot of great players here who I’m surrounded by. I’m just a small part of both teams. It’s fun because winning is fun. That’s what we do a lot of here at Clemson, and that’s why we play to win for this university and these fans.”

Following the 2023 baseball season, Taylor decided he would focus all his attention on baseball for the remainder of Clemson and athletic career. While an important decision, it was one that Taylor believed he had to make. It also allowed him to go through a fall baseball season for the first time in his life.

“It was a very tough decision. I knew I would have to make a decision at some point in my life, but just didn’t know when. When you have to make a decision, you always have to sacrifice something in order to gain something, so I knew I’d have to sacrifice the opportunity with Coach Swinney and the football team.

Sacrifice is an apt description in another way, because Taylor offered to basically become a walk-on with the baseball team and receive no scholarship money in 2024.

As a member of the football team, Taylor was on a full scholarship. With the limitation of only 11.7 scholarships allotted for baseball programs, Taylor and his family did not insist in receiving part of that amount, which allowed his teammates to maintain their scholarship levels.

“I was excited to be a part of Team 127 full time. I’m really trying to contribute as much as possible to this team and this university to help us get to where we want to be in the end.”

While it might not be clear where Taylor will land next in his athletic career, there is no doubt he and his family have left a lasting impact on the Tiger baseball program.