HAMPTON — Tyrod Taylor received his Super Bowl ring June 7. A week later his mom confiscated the most cherished bling in American team sports.
"I got the watch," said Taylor's dad, Rodney, laughing at his consolation prize.
The Taylors gathered at Darling Stadium on Saturday morning for Tyrod's second annual youth football camp. A Hampton High and Virginia Tech alum, he drove down for the weekend fresh off a mini-camp with the world champion Baltimore Ravens.
Taylor wore a Ravens visor but not the ring he earned as the backup to Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco, Baltimore's incumbent quarterback.
"I only wore it once, the day we got it," Taylor said. "Definitely going to a safe deposit box. Can't walk around with that thing on too many times. It's too valuable. I'll take it out for special occasions."
Saturday was special to Taylor on several levels.
He grew up, figuratively and literally, at Darling Stadium. As a kid, he attended games there with his parents. As Hampton High's quarterback, he packed the stands there.
Saturday's audience of 200-plus was far smaller, but the connection was far greater. The young people hung on Taylor's every word, even as he remained the humble, soft-spoken type that his coaches at every level have appreciated.
"Just to be able to give back to these kids and inspire them is a wonderful feeling," Taylor said.
The 2010 ACC Player of the Year at Virginia Tech, Taylor was drafted in the sixth round by the Baltimore Ravens. 'Twas a blessing and a curse.
A blessing because he joined a franchise accustomed to winning and teeming with established leaders such as linebacker Ray Lewis and safety Ed Reed. A curse because Flacco was, and is, entrenched as the team's starting quarterback.
Never more so than since February's Super Bowl conquest of the San Francisco 49ers.
"He played very well last year, all the years he's been there," Taylor said of Flacco. "I'm just learning from that guy. He's a great friend of mine. Well-deserved. He played lights out throughout the playoffs. As a quarterback, you can only hope a guy gets a contract like that."
Yes, the contract. Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks invariably cash in, and during the offseason Flacco signed a six-year deal worth a reported $120 million that makes him the highest-paid player in NFL history.
No one, not even Mrs. Flacco, considers Flacco the game's premier quarterback, but that's how the system works. Win, and you're the flavor du jour.
Flacco is, however, among the NFL's most durable quarterbacks. He's started every game each of the last five seasons, helping the Ravens make the playoffs each year.
All of which leaves precious little oxygen for the No. 2.
"Me being the backup, it's just perfecting my game," Taylor said. "Be ready for the opportunity. You never know what can happen. Take advantage of every preseason rep and continue to build your résumé on the field."
Taylor played in seven games last year, a majority of the snaps coming in the regular-season finale at Cincinnati. A playoff berth clinched, Baltimore coach John Harbaugh benched Flacco early, and Taylor completed 15 of 25 passes for 149 yards, with an interception.
Also, Taylor rushed for 65 yards and a touchdown on nine carries in the 23-17 loss, flashing the mobility that makes the likes of Washington's Robert Griffin III, Seattle's Russell Wilson and San Francisco's Colin Kaepernick so effective.
"I took that as if it was my Super Bowl," Taylor said. "I just tried to … put positive tape out there. It's definitely difficult. You know my history. I've never had to sit. … But this is the big leagues now. Everybody's good. You have to be patient. There's a lot of scenarios where guys were patient and things worked out for them."
Indeed, established quarterbacks such as Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers, Houston's Matt Schaub and New Orleans' Drew Brees served as backups for at least one season. Taylor has two years remaining on his four-year, $2.15-million rookie contract, and while anxious to play realizes life is good.
As should be the Ravens, the retirement Lewis and departures of Reed and receiver Anquan Boldin notwithstanding.
"We had almost full participation," Taylor said of voluntary offseason workouts. "Guys were eager to get back and push to get another (championship). We were on a (Super Bowl) high for awhile, but once you get back in the facility, you realize everyone that was on that team isn't there.
"It's on to a new team, back to a new focus and trying to get the gold again. … I think we have the right people."
And on the off chance he is pressed into service?
"I definitely think my game has come around," Taylor said. "Just learning protections. … I feel way more comfortable than when I first got there. … Practicing against our defense, especially with the two years I got to spend with Ray and Ed, made me better. And we still have a lot of veteran players that can make me better by going against them."
Such considerations were secondary Saturday as Taylor addressed the young people so eager to emulate him.
"The main goal," he told them, "is to have fun."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun