Taylor exemplifies student athlete, coaches and teammates say

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Blaise Taylor has always had to deal with naysayers because of his size.

The true senior is listed at 5'9", 165 pounds in the Arkansas State media guide.

Taylor may be small in stature but he plays big on the field.

Taylor is Arkansas State's all time leader in career punt return touchdowns with three. In fact, the total is good for second all-time in the Sun Belt Conference.

His big play ability earned him a spot on the All-SBC Preseason team. Defensively not too shabby either, making the preseason All-SBC team as a defensive back too.

Even with all of the football talent, it's his production in the classroom that gets the most attention.

On Aug. 4, Taylor became the only active player in college football's bowl subdivision to earn a bachelor's and master's degree in three and a half years.

"I take pride in academics, something stressed from a very young age," Taylor said. "My mom and dad were very big on academics growing up and my dad always said once you learn something you earn it. and it can't be taken away from you."

Blaise is smart but likes to have fun with his teammates.

Who's the smartest guy on this field?

"Justice Hansen, no, easily Blaise Taylor," Hansen jokingly said.

When you're out here on the field, who's the smartest guy on the team?

"Most definitely has to be Blaise Taylor. Just all-around smartest guy. Offense, defense, special teams. Blaise Taylor, smartest guy," Trent Ellis-Brewer said.

"He's very savvy like you said, very smart. I think he has a Ph.D., his doctorate a lot of times he comes out here with a stethoscope around his neck while he's backpedaling, he's just a real headsy player," Hansen said as he continued to joke about his teammate.

The academic feat even impressed A-State Head Coach Blake Anderson.

"I've never heard of that before by anybody. I mean there's a lot of really smart people but maybe it's happened but I doubt they were playing football at the same time or playing a sport," Anderson said.

No one is more proud of Taylor's work on the football field and the classroom than Assistant Head Coach and Blaise's dad, Trooper Taylor.

"I was really proud. Blaise and Starr both know, I told them a long time ago, there's nothing they can do to make me love them more than I already do. But pretty special to see them uphold the standard that we set, obviously my wife she gave the commencement speech. Starr and I sitting over in the stands thinking man the two top dogs is mom and Blaise so we have to pick up our pace, so I teased her a little bit so she's ready for basketball now," the elder Taylor said.

"He just has a tremendous mind for football, he loves the classroom, he loves to excel and compete in the classroom. He doesn't want to see anything but an A and I don't think he's made anything but an A, to be honest with you," Anderson added.

We already had fun with the players, so I had to joke with the coaches.

Who does he get the smarts from?

He definitely gets it from mom. I manage all the rest of it but mom is Dr. Taylor for a reason," Trooper said.

I joked with Taylor if he got it from him, the smarts.

"God no. He got it from Dr. Evelyn Taylor, his mother, we all know that, he didn't get it from Troop. But, he got his big heart from Troop, and just the way he wants to compete and love for football. He got his smarts from momma, no doubt," a smiling Anderson said.

All kidding aside, this is quite an achievement. Football players are student athletes, athletes first. If they don't make the grade, they can't play.

Blaise earned an undergraduate degree in business administration, then a master's degree in business administration. To be eligible for his senior season, he needed to take more classes so he's earning a second bachelor's degree, earning it in Finance.

Taylor needs just nine more credits to get it.

We hear players not having enough credits or a high enough GPA to be eligible, but you seldom ever hear about an athlete needs another degree to be eligible to take the field.

Let that sink in for a second. Taylor needs another degree to be eligible because he's done everything and more in such a short period of time. With all these degrees, he has lofty goals and quite the vision.

"I plan on being a sports agent so I'm working on getting certified by the NFL's Players Association as well as I'm running a non-profit organization, filling out the paperwork right now," Blaise Taylor said. "Hopefully get it up and running by the time school starts. My non-profit is called the "Power of One and Two" and basically we got that name because I'm jersey number one and my sister (A-State basketball player Starr Taylor) is jersey number two and she's also going to help me with that as well. "The organization is really built on just being that one or two people in somebody's life that really changes and makes a difference. And I've been working at a local alternative school here in town called Success and have been working with a class twice a week, mentoring one student and I can see from personal experience that you can be that one person that makes a difference in someone's life."