Fret not for Christian Taylor. Granted, the hours are exhausting, the pay scant. Sure, his studio apartment is as roomy as a Smart Car, and yes, his girlfriend lives 2,000-plus miles away.
But Taylor loves his job, is spending Christmas on a San Diego beach and will welcome 2012 in New Orleans' French Quarter.
A former Grafton High and William and Mary quarterback, Taylor is a staff intern at the University of Michigan — the Wolverines' website calls him a "football analyst" — and his research will inform Michigan's offensive game plan against Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl.
"I was a sports junkie," Taylor said by phone from Ann Arbor. "I started playing youth football for Grafton-Tabb when I was six. The first day I put on shoulder pads and a helmet, I fell in love with it. … I love the competition, the team unity. There are things you can learn from it that help you in life: discipline, hard work, determination, integrity, honesty. … It's the greatest team sport there is.
"Now if I had the ability, I'd still be playing. But I wasn't blessed with that ability. Coaching's the next best thing, and you definitely have to love it when you're a coach. It's hard to get your foot in the door, and when you do you're going you're going to work the longest hours."
Taylor, 27, works directly for offensive coordinator Al Borges. His job is to immerse himself in the opposing defense's schemes, tendencies and personnel, and to present those findings on video and in writing.
The work demands 16-hour days and strains the youngest of eyes.
"Studying and attacking opponents, the chess match. That's fun," Taylor said. "Once you reach the halfway part of the season you get a little worn down, a little tired of all the late nights. But you just tell yourself to keep grinding."
Taylor began grinding in 2008, when he joined Jimmye Laycock's William and Mary staff as a part-timer. A backup on the Tribe's 2004 national semifinalists, he helped coach the program's quarterbacks in 2009, when W&M returned to the Football Championship Subdivision semis.
Taylor's assignment speaks volumes. A former quarterback himself, Laycock protects that position like a left tackle.
"He's smart, like a lot of our guys," Laycock said of Taylor. "He has an acumen for coaching. He had a very good demeanor with the guys. He'll be a good coach if he sticks with it."
When Taylor decided to move west after the '09 season, Laycock recommended him to Norv Turner. The San Diego Chargers coach didn't have a position, but eventually, Taylor landed at San Diego State, where last season he worked for Borges and head coach Brady Hoke.
Michigan hired Hoke in January to replace Rich Rodriguez, and he took Borges and Taylor with him.
"Definitely a big adjustment flying in here from San Diego," Taylor said. "I didn't see grass for about three months. … Right now I'm a loner up here. … The thing that's great about Michigan is the support from everybody, the alumni, the community, the school. … Michigan's as good as it gets as far as that's concerned."
Taylor attends practices and games — the charter jets and posh hotels are nice — and sits with Borges in the coaches' box. But his work is done outside the public eye.
In fact, since the NCAA limits Bowl Subdivision program to nine full-time assistants, Taylor is not permitted to coach players.
"The best part of coaching is working with the players," Taylor said. "That's the most rewarding part of coaching, helping them and working with them on the field and off the field. … You can have such a positive impact on their lives.
"The hard part is standing there watching, but that's just part of (my) position right now. I'm lucky to be here at Michigan, and that's going to afford me some pretty good opportunities for my next job. … It's all networking. The whole coaching profession is networking."
Taylor hopes to parlay the Michigan gig into a full-time college position next season. But his present focus is a brief Christmas junket to visit his girlfriend in San Diego, followed by more Virginia Tech analysis.
With the extra time to prepare for the Jan. 3 contest, Taylor is watching every defensive snap of the Hokies' regular season. As a Virginian, he is well aware of Tech coordinator Bud Foster.
"They're definitely very athletic and well-coached," Taylor said. "Coach Foster's been there forever with Coach (Frank) Beamer. … They know what they want to do on defense because all of those players have been in the same system for so long.
"They're definitely a very good defense. Their numbers prove that. (Foster) does a coverage that isn't as popular anymore. But he does a very good job of mixing it up. He's not predictable. You don't know what to expect.
"We call it a 'three sink' coverage. It basically gets close to eight guys in the box, and it's great for stopping the run. … That's the base principle of it."
Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson and tailback Fitz Toussaint, who have combined for 2,174 yards rushing and 25 touchdowns, will test that base principle.
Like the Hokies, the Wolverines head to New Orleans on Wednesday. Taylor's girlfriend and his parents are making the junket, and he'll spend what little free time he has with them.
"A lot of people get weeded out in this profession," Taylor said. "A lot of people start to do it because they see the head coaches making seven figures and the coordinators making six figures. … And then they don't enjoy it enough to do all the grunt work. …
"Parts of it aren't fun. Parts of it you don't want to do, but if you love the game … you know you have to do it. And most of it's fun."
David Teel can be reached at 247-4636 or by e-mail at email@example.com. For more from Teel, read his blog at dailypress.com/sports/teeltime and follow him at twitter.com/DavidTeelatDP
Former Grafton, W&M quarterback doing the grunt work as Michigan prepares for Sugar Bowl against Virginia Tech
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