Noah Taylor (Col ’21), a linebacker from Silver Spring, Maryland, was recruited by many college programs, but Virginia stood out. “I never saw what I saw in Coach Mendenhall [The Fralin Family Head Football Coach Bronco Mendenhall] and his coaching staff. They told me how it was going to be: ‘You’re probably not going to play your first year, you’re going to have a white shirt when you get here, you’re not going to get any gear.’” That philosophy appealed to Taylor. “It feels better if you work for something and then get it. If something is just given to you, you don’t enjoy it as much. It doesn’t mean as much to you.”
"If it wasn’t for the scholarship, I wasn’t going to go to college, though,” he said. “It gives people an opportunity and a way out of whatever their struggle is back home.” Taylor, whose scholarship is made possible by annual fund contributions, put in the work and earned the chance to play his first year. He was one of just eight first-year players to make his collegiate debut in the Cavalier season opener against Richmond. He went on to appear in eight more games that season.
His second year, Taylor and his teammates reclaimed the Commonwealth Cup with a 39-30 victory over Virginia Tech. He led UVA’s defense with six tackles, one sack, and two interceptions of Virginia Tech’s Hendon Hooker, who entered the game with zero interceptions in his career. Taylor was named ACC Linebacker of the Week. “Ending that year going to the ACC Championship and playing in the Orange Bowl was a great experience,” he said.
As Taylor anticipated, Mendenhall and his staff expect a lot of their players. “The most unique thing about playing football at UVA is how hard things are and how close everyone is, which is one of our core values: Hard Things Together,” said Taylor.
As Taylor anticipated, Mendenhall and his staff expect a lot of their players. “The most unique thing about playing football at UVA is how hard things are and how close everyone is, which is one of our core values: Hard Things Together,” said Taylor. “Everything we do here is going to be difficult, and I wake up every morning knowing that. The only way to succeed in this program is to embrace and enjoy the challenges. Being surrounded by great people in the locker room helps with that.”
Co-defensive Coordinator Kelly Poppinga is one of those great people for Taylor. “I truly believe he is one of the best coaches in the country. He has shown me the game of football in a way I didn’t even know existed and has helped my growth as a man.”
Taylor earned ACC Linebacker of the Week honors again in 2020, after a Cavalier win over Louisville where he set a UVA record for longest interception return by a linebacker on his pick six that went 85 yards against the Cardinals—a return that tied for the third-longest interception return in program history.
Taylor takes a long view when it comes to his football career. He aims to play professionally and return to UVA as a coach. “When I came here I knew it was a 40-year decision, not a four-year decision,” he said. “I’m looking forward to growing not only as a football player, but as a person, hopefully furthering my adventures to the NFL and still growing when I get there.”