SU’s Taylor to be inducted into Hokies’ Hall of Fame this weekend

Ben Taylor

Former Virginia Tech linebacker Ben Taylor had been back to Blacksburg just once in the last decade. Life after football – starting a family, as well as a teaching and coaching career – hasn’t afforded many trips down Interstate 81. Taylor returned to Tech’s campus this week for the first time in six years, and he will leave a Hokie hall of famer.

Taylor was one of five people – including his former teammate and standout quarterback Michael Vick – announced in July as the newest members of the Virginia Tech Sports Hall of Fame, and that group’s induction becomes official with a series of festivities this weekend.

Taylor, a Bellaire, Ohio, native who now lives in Winchester and is an assistant football coach at Shenandoah University and physical education teacher at Millbrook High School, recalled in a phone interview from Blacksburg on Thursday evening the moment he was informed of his induction.

“They sent me a letter and it was really just an awesome feeling to have and kind of be a part of that legacy that is Virginia Tech football, and to feel like you’ve made an impression or had an effect on it,” Taylor, who played for the Hokies from 1998-2001, said. “I was fortunate to have so many good teammates. I played with some of the great players. … It’s nice to be mentioned with some of those guys, the all-time great Virginia Tech guys.”

Taylor, Vick, men’s basketball’s Zabian Dowdell, baseball’s Tim Buheller and softball’s Megan Evans each will be honored during a hall of fame dinner on Tech’s campus Friday evening. That group will then be introduced during halftime of the Hokies’ game against Old Dominion on Saturday.

Taylor, who has three sons – Benjamin (age 10), Noah (8) and Elijah (4) – with his wife, April, and another due in November, took advantage of Shenandoah University’s bye week and got an early jump on the weekend festivities by taking his family to Tech’s practice on Thursday afternoon.

“I took my boys down through the tunnel (at Lane Stadium) and onto the field after practice and actually two of them ran the stadium, so they were loving it,” the 39-year-old Taylor said.

“Now at this point in my life it’s being able to celebrate these things with my family because obviously they didn’t get to see me play at the time. It’s pretty neat to be able to share these experiences with them.”

Those that did get to see Taylor play at Virginia Tech witnessed quite a college career.

A three-year starter for the Hokies, Taylor was twice a semifinalist for the Butkus Award – given to the nation’s top linebacker – as a junior and a senior, and earned All-American honors both of those seasons. He started 10 games as a sophomore in 1999, the year Virginia Tech played Florida State for the national title.

As a junior in 2000, Taylor was named a third team All-American by The Associated Press after recording 103 tackles (seven for loss) and two interceptions. Taylor was voted a second team All-American by The Associated Press and Football News following his senior season in 2001, during which he totaled 121 tackles (18 for loss) and 4.5 sacks.

In his Tech career Taylor had 318 total tackles, 31 tackles for loss and seven sacks, and is still tied for second among Hokie linebackers in career TFLs.

“I was looked over being from Ohio, and that’s kind of Big Ten area and stuff like that. I was looked over by all those schools and it gave me a chip on my shoulder, which can be a pretty good thing for you as far as motivation,” said Taylor, who also taught and coached at Skyline High School prior taking a job at Millbrook. “I just kind of used that and when I got down here (to Virginia Tech), then it wasn’t necessarily a chip about those people because I loved the school so much and the people that I just tried to play as hard as I could and do everything I could to just be a player and be a part of our program.”

Through all of his individual accomplishments, Taylor said it was the camaraderie that he remembers most from his time in Blacksburg.

“I had such a great senior class. I had so many great people that I played with,” Taylor said. “Andre Davis was a guy that played like 10 years in the NFL – phenomenal person. Jarrett Ferguson, he played in the NFL, phenomenal person. I had a couple teammates from Tech in the NFL, like Chad Beasley, and they were just phenomenal people.

“If I was to go with one experience with football, you know, I don’t know if I can say one. There were just so many great things. … But just playing with my buddies. They were my buddies and, like I said, it’s a band of brothers, and that’s kind of what you miss when you get out of it.”

Taylor went on to play five seasons in the NFL after being drafted by the Cleveland Browns in the 2002 draft. He played four seasons with the Browns, starting 16 games and recording a career-high 113 tackles in 2005, before playing his final NFL season with the Green Bay Packers in 2006.

He joined Shenandoah’s staff in 2015 and coaches wide receivers for the Hornets.

Taylor said he hopes to use Friday’s hall of fame dinner as an opportunity to reconnect with past acquaintances and offer his thanks to those who gave him the opportunity to play football for the Hokies.

“I just wanna be able to express my gratitude for everything that Virginia Tech has given me,” he said. “I’m so thankful. And the situation (when) I came to Virginia Tech and stuff like that, God was definitely looking after me. As long as I didn’t screw it up it was gonna work out pretty good.”