Granted, he had one year of eligibility remaining at Notre Dame, but Bobby Taylor was anxious to play in the NFL. The Eagles were eager to give the All-America cornerback a shot and chose him in the second round of the 1995 NFL Draft.
"I was happy," said Taylor, who is the Honorary Alumni Captain presented by Santander for Sunday's season opener. "I just wanted to have an opportunity to reach my lifelong dream of making it to the NFL. So once the Eagles drafted me, I was super excited and ready to go to Philadelphia."
Taylor may have been super excited, but by moving into the starting lineup after just four games, any grace period he had of adjusting to playing at the NFL level disappeared.
"It was kind of difficult coming from college and playing against bigger receivers, faster receivers that ran better routes," Taylor said. "And you also have to add the quarterback aspect. We had quarterbacks that were able to get balls into very small windows. So if you weren't on your game from a defensive back standpoint being in your coverage, the chances of you even getting a fingertip on the ball were not likely."
Taylor did, however, have an advantage. At 6-3, he was taller than an average defensive back.
"The league itself was kind of transitioning from the smaller, quicker, faster receiver to a lot of the bigger and more physical receivers. So that basically played right into my skill set," Taylor said. "There were still some smaller guys, don't get me wrong, but when you look at a lot of the teams across the board, their first options and their second options were the bigger receivers. So with me being a bigger cornerback, it wasn't that hard to adjust to whatever offenses they were trying in targeting those bigger guys more so than the smaller guys."
After collecting five interceptions during his first two seasons, Taylor suffered an ACL injury in 1997 and missed 10 games. His eagle-eyed focus on rehabilitating didn't go unnoticed. He was presented with the Ed Block Courage Award one year later. Voted on by teammates, it honors players who exemplify commitment to the principles of sportsmanship and courage.
"Those types of awards are the best ones I feel you can receive," Taylor said. "Because my teammates, they obviously saw that after my injury and surgery that I worked hard to try to get back out on the field to help them win some ball games. So to be voted the winner of that particular award by my peers, that's probably one of the best awards that I received while I was in the NFL."
Following three losing seasons, the Eagles began to turn things around in 2000 under second-year head coach Andy Reid, with the first of five consecutive years making it into the playoffs.
"I think it was just guys maturing as football players," Taylor said. "We added a couple of key free agents here and there, but for the most part we were guys that were drafted by the organization. They were able to develop us and we became more mature and good NFL football players. And it showed out on the field."
What also showed out on the field was Philadelphia's exceptional secondary. Taylor, fellow cornerback Troy Vincent and free safety Brian Dawkins were recognized when each was selected to play in the 2002 Pro Bowl.
"We all pushed each other," said Taylor. "We all knew that we had a specific skill set. But day in and day out, we just worked hard at everything when it came to technique, to the way we watched film. We were our own toughest critics. Even more so than our coaches. And I think that really just became infectious among the three of us and also with the other guys that we played with in the secondary, as well."
With Philadelphia for nine of his 10 seasons in the NFL, and with 19 career interceptions as an Eagle, what is Taylor most proud of when he reflects on his career?
"The biggest thing for me is just the amount of years that I was able to play," Taylor said. "Because when you look at the typical life span of an NFL player, it's maybe two-and-a-half years. And so to be able to play 10 years and to be a starter pretty much nine and a half of those years, I think that's probably one of the things that I'm most proud of.
"That's one of the biggest attributes as far as being a player is showing up and being able to play, being able to be available. I had a couple of injuries here and there, but for the most part I was able to stay pretty healthy and play for 10 years, which is a long time."