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Amid career year, Taylor looks to go out on top

No one could blame ASU football coach Dennis Erickson for playing 18-year-old true freshman wide receiver Kerry Taylor.

He had not only the pedigree of a top-tier football player, but the poise and skill as well.

Helping his high school win a state championship in 2006, Taylor caught 80 passes for 1,560 yards and 22 touchdowns as a junior and senior.

Son of former NFL defensive back Keith Taylor and nephew of former San Francisco 49er wide-out John Taylor, Kerry graduated Chandler Hamilton already looking like a college player.

“You look at it now and you almost kick yourself in the rear-end for not redshirting him,” Erickson said. “At that time we didn't have much depth and he was a polished receiver coming out of high school. Immediately he was mature enough to help us.”

Taylor appeared in all 13 games his freshman season, but caught just eight passes for 53 yards.

It’s hard to say what an extra year of eligibility would have meant for the wide receiver, but judging from how much he’s improved from year to year, the answer seems obvious.

Taylor showed his knack for improvement just three minutes into his second season in Tempe.

The sophomore caught a 52-yard pass from former Sun Devil quarterback Rudy Carpenter and scored the first touchdown of his collegiate career.

“Just coming out and scoring on the first opportunity I had to touch the ball,” Taylor said. “That just showed how far hard work can take you from one year to the next.”

Taylor finished his sophomore campaign with six starts and 405 yards under his belt.

Last season Taylor missed three games, two due to injury and one due to suspension.

“Through the good and bad, I never let it effect how hard I worked,” Taylor said. “I just tried to come out and get better everyday.”

Through 10 games this year, the senior has 42 receptions for 519 yards, both career highs.

“He makes plays for us and he has had a great year,” Erickson said. “The improvement from last fall to this fall is unbelievable. I commend him for that. We move him around and he fits in the slot real well — I am real proud of how he plays the game.”

With a 4-6 record, however, it hasn’t been the type of team year Taylor had hoped.

“It’s been a rollercoaster ride,” Taylor said. “Started off fast, then losing a few games then beating Washington and Washington State the way we did then losing a bunch of close games, I can’t even explain what it’s been like.”

Still, at least two games remain in the wide receiver’s ASU career and winning out would give the Sun Devils an outside chance at the postseason.

“I’m pretty excited about both games and hopefully we can get to a bowl game,” Taylor said. “We’re just taking it one game at a time, because we have to win five to win six.”

First up is senior day Friday against UCLA.

“I’m excited because it’s the one day I get to be recognized as a senior and the last time I’ll play at Sun Devil Stadium,” Taylor said. “But it’s also kind of sad because it really is the last time I get to come out of the tunnel and the last time I get to play in front of the home crowd, so it’s a little bit of mixed emotions.”

As for what he’ll be thinking when he runs out onto Frank Kush Field for the last time in an ASU uniform, Taylor said, “I’ll be thinking about all the practices I’ve had, all the good moments I’ve had and just realize, ‘man this is it.’”

ASU junior wide receiver Gerell Robinson has played with Taylor since high school.

“His growth has been tremendous; he’s grown into a man,” Robinson said. “It’s bittersweet to see him go. I’m happy for him to get to the next level because he’s going to get his chance and hopefully he makes the best out of his opportunity, but it’s sad to see him go because he’s a good dude.”

The senior will close out his regular season Sun Devil career in Tucson on Dec. 2.

“I definitely hate that school so beating them would be a good way to go out,” Taylor said. “We haven’t beat UA since my freshman year, so I came in beating UA, hopefully I can leave beating UA. Going through the season winning or losing, as long as you beat UA on the last game, that’s what you remember.”

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