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Rookie safety Taylor stands out at Giants camp

Fifth-round pick excels despite unusual size, health history
05/10/2013 4:04 PM ET
By The Associated Press

The Giants expect to make use of Cooper Taylor in three-safety sets.(AP)
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- Cooper Taylor isn't your ordinary NFL safety.

The New York Giants' fifth-round draft pick is big for a defensive back by any standard. He's 6-foot-4 and 228 pounds. Seeing him for the first time at a rookie camp Friday, some teammates sized him up and felt he was either a tight end or a quarterback.

The Giants and defensive coordinator Perry Fewell, however, expect other things from Taylor. With his size and speed, he has the potential of being that third safety in New York's three-safety defensive package, the one who can play in the box and stop the run or cover those big, quick tight ends downfield.

What's even more interesting is Taylor's background. He's made it this far despite a heart condition that required surgery four years ago.

''I am definitely an enigma for the position,'' Taylor said Friday after the Giants opened a two-day camp for rookies and free agents. ''Not a whole lot of guys like me, so that plays to my advantage. Hopefully, coaches see what I can do and I'll be able to compete and play.''

Four years ago, playing football was a major question mark for Taylor.

In his second season at Georgia Tech, Taylor developed a very rapid heartbeat in a game against Miami and doctors on the field immediately became concerned.

''It was elevated enough that the doctors immediately had the ambulance come over,'' Taylor recalled. ''It was pretty bad. At the time I was out of it, so I don't remember the specifics. It wasn't the best situation to be in.''

The Atlanta native was diagnosed with Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, a heart condition in which there is an abnormal extra electrical pathway to the heart. It can lead to episodes of rapid heart rate.

Taylor did his best to explain the one-hour procedure in November that got his heart back in sync.

''Your heart works like a circuit, up and around,'' he said in drawing a circular motion around his heart. ''Mine was up and across. They just burned a little piece of muscle and now it goes up and around and perfectly good to go.''

His heart history was a topic that almost every team spoke to him about before the draft. So when he met with them, he carried a stack of doctors' records for teams to review, and statements from cardiologists that showed his heart pathway had been fixed and there shouldn't be any further problems.

''I have tried to put it in the past and move on,'' Taylor said. ''I know the month (it happened). That's about it. September (2009) and that's the last thing I'll ever remember about it.''

Taylor returned to football the following season and played four games, before transferring to Richmond for his final two seasons. He had 78 tackles, three forced fumbles and four interceptions for the Spiders last season.

Marc Ross, the Giants director of college scouting, felt New York found a hidden gem taking Taylor in the fifth round.

''This guy is big, fast, smart, plays the game the right way,'' Ross said after the draft. ''He does a lot of things for Richmond. They line him up at multiple positions. You'll see him in the box; you'll see him back deep. He covers the slot. Productive there.

''We think this guy has got a lot of upside.''

Taylor's size brings back memories of Jason Sehorn, a larger-than-average cornerback who the Giants selected in 1994. He became a starter and helped New York to the Super Bowl in the 2000 season. Taylor recalled watching him play, saying he identified with him because of his size.

With Antrel Rolle and Stevie Brown returning as starters, Taylor will probably make his most immediate contribution on special teams. The job of the third safety has been open since Kenny Phillips signed with Philadelphia as a free agent.

''Whoever the guy is who goes out there and makes plays is the guy who is going to get to go out on the field and make this team,'' Taylor said, who showed his southern roots with answers of ''Yes, sir'' and ''Yes, ma'am.''

With NFL teams using receivers and tight ends in the 6-foot-6 range, Taylor has a shot to fit in.

''I am definitely one of the bigger safeties but I think that plays to my advantage with the way the league is going, with as many tight end as there are,'' he said. ''So I think there is a spot for a little bigger safety.

''Hopefully I will be able to fill that role.''

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