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Everybody Went To Bat For M's Bill Taylor

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By Wayne DeNeff

It took a lot of persuading to get Billy Taylor back into football gear.

It took his high school coach, his principal and even the superintendent at Barberton, Ohio. They all told Mrs. Taylor the same thing—that Bill was a strong young man who loved football and there really was scant chance that he ever would be seriously hurt.

“She finally reluctantly agreed,” said Bill, the Michigan tailback who sparkled in last Saturday’s victory over Minnesota, “and now she’s even quite interested in the game. She keeps clippings and talks about it.

“She didn’t understand football,” Taylor explains, “but now she understands and all she asks is that I pray a lot, and I do, hoping to do my best.”

It’s not true as publicized that the Michigan sophomore played only one year of high school football.

He played as a sophomore and was good enough, in fact, to be moved up to the varsity at mid-year.

But his mother put her foot down when Bill was a high school junior, insisting the game was too rough and dangerous.

So Taylor languished in the stands during his junior year while his high school teammates tore up and down the field playing the brand of mid-Ohio football which probably is unequalled throughout the land.

In Barberton, high school football is king and nobody was going to stand for Billy Taylor continuing as a spectator during his senior year.

So that’s where the persuasion came in and Billy probably helped his own cause as much as anyone by convincing his mother that there was a possibility he could earn a college education by playing football.

The possibility turned into reality as Taylor led the assault on Barberton’s foes and by the time he had completed his senior year, every major college in the Midwest was interested in offering him a scholarship.

It narrowed down to Michigan, Ohio State and Michigan State and Taylor finally chose Ann Arbor because he liked its chapter of Fellowship of Christian Athletes and was impressed by Michigan basketball All-America Cazzie Russell, a member of the organization who had taken time to visit with the young Ohio athlete. Former Michigan assistant coach Tony Mason also influenced Taylor in his decision.

Considering that he missed one year of high school football, missed much practice and two games this season with a shoulder injury and that he had carried the ball only 15 times before last Saturday, Taylor had a truly exceptional performance against the Gophers—scoring three touchdowns and rushing for 151 yards in 31 carries.

“His performance against Minnesota was outstanding,” said Coach Bo Schembechler, “but it takes on something extra when you stop to think how little football this boy has played.”

Taylor, a quiet and observant player who packs good speed and excellent power in a 5-10, 195-pound body, had doubts just a couple of weeks ago that he’d ever play much football for Michigan.

The first time he got his hands on the ball he fumbled it. That came in the third game of the season against Missouri. A teammate recovered the fumble.

On the first running play from scrimmage, the ball again went to Taylor and again he fumbled it. “Boy, I thought that was it,” says Taylor probably remembering Schembechler’s oft-spoken words: “There are no excuses for fumbles. Fumbles are just carelessness.”

“I sure didn’t think I would play much after that,” says Taylor.

But he got his chance at Minneapolis when another fine sophomore tailback, Glenn Doughty, was left home with thigh and ankle injuries. He got a third chance and played with distinction.

As quarterback Don Moorhead put it in the Memorial Stadium dressing room right after the 35-9 victory returned “The Little Brown Jug” to Michigan:

“Billy gave us a lift we needed. He gave it all he had and there was nobody on the team who couldn’t see it.”

Although Doughty is much better today and apparently will play against Wisconsin on Saturday, Schembechler has promised that Taylor, known as “B. T.” to his teammates, will play, too. “He’s earned it,” says the coach.

BOX TEXT: Gabler Joins Michigan Fathers: Senior wingback John Gabler is the newest Michigan father. Gabler’s wife, Sally, gave birth today to an eight-pound, six-ounce boy.

Earlier this fall, the wives of Coach Bo Schembechler and fullback Garvie Craw gave birth to a boy and a girl, respectively. Players whose wives gave birth in recent months include offensive tackle Dan Dierdorf, middle guard Henry Hill and centers Scott Hulke and Mike Smith.