C.J. Taylor has chosen one of his favorite numbers to put on his jersey this year, No. 13.

Rising sophomore C.J. Taylor went into Vanderbilt’s Black and Gold Spring Game this past Saturday with the mindset of making plays, and he made a big one in the opening defensive series of the game. C.J. was playing outside linebacker and blitzed in the B gap on the fourth offensive play of the game, and he tackled the running back behind the line of scrimmage. It was a play that highlighted how McMinnville’s Mr. Football has made a big impression this spring on Vanderbilt’s football coaches.

Defense was Black in the Black and Gold game that ended in a 32-32 tie between the defense and offense (White). No. 13 C.J. Taylor covered a lot of ground from his outside linebacker position.


Linebacker coach Nick Lezynski said after the game that C.J. had progressed this spring. Lezynski said, “He grew up and matured as a player. He played with intensity and great effort. This spring we had to tell C.J. to hold back a couple of times because he was thumping dudes. He sets a tone for physicality and that was on display this spring.”

Linebacker coach Nick Lezynski joined the Vanderbilt Football staff earlier this year. Lezynski walked onto the Notre Dame football team in 2007, and he later coached at Notre Dame with Vanderbilt head coach Clark Lea, who was then Notre Dame’s defensive coordinator.

Vanderbilt’s defensive coordinator, Nick Howell said, “I really just got to know him through this spring ball. My impression is that he is a good football player. He has a knack for the ball. He is physical. He plays fast. A really good player.”

C.J. Taylor after the game with teammate, No. 3, Quincy Skinner, Jr., a wide receiver from Florida.


C.J. Taylor is living up to the Mr. Football TSSAA 6A award he won as a Warren County Pioneer in 2020. Vanderbilt head coach Clark Lea spoke to the crowd over the stadium PA system at halftime. Lea emphasized his gratitude for fans showing up, and he said, “We are on a long journey to build a strong team.” There was no doubt when spring practice ended on Saturday that C.J. had successfully embarked on his collegiate football journey with the Commodores.

Head coach of the Vanderbilt Commodores, Clark Lea after the Black and Gold game.


Both coaches were asked about the prospect of C.J. starting this fall on defense. Linebacker coach Nick Lezynski said, “There is a chance C.J. will start this fall. We compete every day. He ran with the ones a lot this spring, and he got a good opportunity to put himself on display. Like we say all the time, one day, one life. As a linebacker you’ve got one day to prove yourself.”

Defensive coordinator Nick Howell commented on C.J.’s potential to start this fall. Howell said, “We will evaluate everyone together (as coaches), and we will put the best players on the field. C.J. had a good spring. He is doing well. He has put himself into a position where he can help us. He plays fast. I don’t know how fast he is, but he has a lot of instincts. There is a place for him in different packages that we have where he can play fast and use his skill set.”


Fans came onto the field after the Black and Gold game. One fan from Heritage got to wear C.J.’s helmet and got his autograph.


BD How was your freshman year?

C.J. I have been running with the ones for the past two weeks. It felt good because I put a lot of work in. I’ve been studying a lot of film. I am glad that I am getting a reward from it. It’s a good experience.

BD What will you do this summer?

C.J. This summer I will be in Miami on the beach, working in the sand. That’s the plan. I will be back on campus June 5.

BD How has the conditioning, weight-training gone?

C.J. The conditioning, weight-training has gone well. I am feeling good. I am up to 208. A lot of speed and conditioning down there in the sand, in Miami.

BD What was the most challenging part of your freshman year?

C.J. My hand injury. Not being able to play due to that, not being able to catch up with the playbook hurt me a lot. I have never been sitting on the bench or anything like that, and it took a lot of pride. Took a lot of my pride.

C.J. Taylor and Vanderbilt linebackers and staff after the Black and Gold Game, Saturday, April 16.

BD Did you miss any classes this spring and forced to run the regatta?

C.J. I did have to do a regatta last week. It was a miscommunication, so I have done that (the regatta).

BD What do you think about the prospect of starting this fall?

C.J. When you wake up, there is no decision to be made. If you want to play, you have to come to work. If not, you will get your spot taken.

BD Where do you hang out in town and on campus?

C.J. I am always in my dorm. I hang out with my friends in the new dorm.

BD Anything you want to say to the people in McMinnville?

C.J. I hope I make you all proud, and this is for you all.

Mary Humphrey who cheered for C.J. and the Warren County Pioneers now cheers for the Commodores as a member of the dance team while attending Lipscomb University.

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