0

DYNAMITE DOZEN -- TAYLOR TABB, Southwest Georgia Academy -- It's 'T-Time' at SGA

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

DAMASCUS -- They call Taylor Tabb, "T-Time.''

"That means Taylor Time,'' Southwest Georgia Academy senior tight end Allen Gray said. "It's Taylor time any time. One touch of the ball and he can change a game. He can change a game just that fast -- any time is Taylor Time.''

There's more than the nickname. There's trust, confidence and more for Tabb.

"He is such a leader that you know he will do whatever it takes,'' said Carson Ray, a senior who starts on both lines for SGA. "He's the kind of leader that you have confidence in him. You feel like he will take care of us and do whatever it takes to help his team.''

There's more.

"If we miss a block, he'll make something happen,'' Ray said.

Don't put a Superman suit on Tabb just yet. He's as human and about as humble as they come, but you can't blame the kids at SGA for looking up to Tabb, the only member of The Herald's Dynamite Dozen this year that hails from a GISA program.

He's the team's leading rusher, and best defender -- a hard-nose safety who loves to hit --and he also returns kickoffs and punts. According to anyone you ask at SGA, Tabb can do just about anything on the football field.

"He could play any position and play it well,'' Gray said. "He's that kind of player.''

His future is at safety, where Tabb is a ferocious hitter with 4.5 speed who loves to fly all over the field, landing knockout blows on anyone who's not wearing SGA colors.

"He would climb that pole if he thought it would mean he could hit somebody,'' said SGA coach David Bell as he pointed to a tall light pole at SGA's football stadium.

He may have to climb a pole to get someone to recruit him. It's difficult playing for a small Class AA private school in GISA, and Damascus is a long way from just about everywhere. Still, Tabb's talent can't be ignored.

"He's one of the best players from this area (regardless of classification),'' Bell said. "I remember when (current UGA stars) Shawn Williams was at Early County and I remember when Bacarri Rambo was playing at Seminole ... Taylor is as good as those two were when they were in high school.

"I definitely think he can play Division I football. No doubt about it.''

If they're looking for heart, Tabb will be playing on Saturdays. If there had been a college recruiter in SGA's locker room last week, Tabb might have been offered a scholarship on the spot.

SGA was deadlocked with Terrell Academy's two-time defending Class A GISA state champs, and Tabb was all but done for the night.

He had a bruised shoulder and a deep bruise on his ribcage.

"The doctor told him that he could go back and play but didn't think he would be capable to play because of there was so much pain,'' assistant coach Beau Johnson said Tuesday. "He didn't think he could handle the pain.''

Tabb's teammates rallied around him. They told Tabb not to worry -- they'd handle business without him and would win it for him.

"We told him we could win it for him,'' Gray said. "And that's when he said he was going to play no matter what.''

It shocked Johnson.

"After what the doctor said, I didn't think he was going to play, because the pain was so extreme,'' Johnson said. "But the next thing I know, he's leading the team onto the field for the second half. We were all surprised. Then on the second play, he busts loose for a 65-yard touchdown run. That's the proudest I have ever been of him.''

Bell was just as proud.

"When the kids told him they wanted to win it for him, that's when he got fired up and decided to play,'' Bell said. "It says a lot about his character. He wasn't looking for any personal gains. He's not a stat guy at all. He doesn't know his stats and doesn't care about them. He just wants the team to win. You should have seen him at the end of the game on the sideline cheering for his team.''

Tabb played with tears literally running down his eyes in the second half, scoring twice on big-play runs and finishing the night with 167 yards on 18 carries to lead SGA to a 19-6 victory.

"We saw the tears,'' Gray said. "It (inspired us). It just showed how much he wants the team to win that he would play hurt.''

Tabb wants to win them all, just that much.

"I wasn't worried about the pain. I was raised on a farm with two older brothers. If you couldn't take the pain, you weren't going to make it very long,'' he said with a smile. "I just feel I should do everything I can to help my team win.''

Especially this year.

"We want to win state,'' he said. "I think we can. I know most people are doubting us because we're small, but I just think we want it bad enough to win it. We've put in the time and the hard work. And hard work pays off.''

That work-first ethic comes from the farm, a down-home belief that nothing comes easy and everything worth having comes with some hard work behind it. That's the way Tabb was brought up.

"We have a peanut and cotton farm, and I have done it all on the farm,'' Tabb said. "You plant 'em, you spray 'em, you pick 'em.''

And somewhere along the way you grow into manhood.

Tabb, who is a chiseled 6-foot-3, 190-pounder, sprouted in the last couple of years. He weighed about 125 pounds as a freshman, and was still dreaming of playing baseball back then. He grew up wanting to play shortstop for the Braves, and even made the long trips to Dothan, Ala., once a week to take hitting lessons to hone his skills. He still plays baseball at SGA, but now his first love is the gridiron, where nothing shines brighter than Friday Night Lights.

"I just fell in love football,'' Tabb said. "I was a small kid, but once I got a little bigger and a little older, I was just drawn more to football. Football has so much more to it. It's more of a family environment, and you put more into football.

"Everybody has their thing that makes them them. The thing that makes them the happiest. Everybody has the thing that is their stress relief. Football is mine.''

Tabb may be relieving his own stress, but he's bringing it to everyone on the other side of the ball.

"He's wild,'' Gray said. "He's always ready to hit somebody. He's crazy, but it's a controlled crazy.''

That pays off on a football field.

"When he gets crazy, you better get out of his way,'' Ray said. "When he gets mad, he gets crazy, and he gets mad a lot. If things aren't going good, he'll do something to pick us up.''

It's the only way Tabb knows how to play.

"His motor is running all the time,'' Bell said. "He's got a mean streak in him, and he wants to hit folks.''

But that's only part of what Tabb brings to the field.

"We've had good players here,'' said Bell, who has been at SGA for 16 years. "But they were (usually) good at doing one thing.

"(Taylor) can do anything we need him to do. He ran a kickoff and a punt back for touchdowns last year. He's just different. He can do so much. And he loves the weight room. The way he lifts weights, I can see him carrying 215 pounds (in college).''

If a scholarship comes, that is.

"I don't worry about it or even think about it,'' Tabb said. "I don't want to stress out over it. If it happens, it happens. If it's God's will, it will happen. I'm going to college whether I get a scholarship or not. I don't know exactly what I (will major in), but I want to do something in the medical field.''

Tabb's oldest brother, Lance, is in medical school in Memphis. Lance played for the last SGA team to win a state title back in 1998, and Taylor's dream is to win another title.

"It would be great to have Lance and his family come to the state title game and see us win it,'' said Tabb, who is a lifer at SGA -- he started school there in K-4 when he was 4 years old. "That's the goal this year. A lot of players on this team have relatives who played for state title teams here, and we want to win one this year.

"I really don't care about stats. I just want to win a state title. That's what this season is all about; about doing everything I can to help my team win.''