Super Bowl champion Tyrod Taylor returns home for camp

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Tyrod Taylor on returning home to Hampton for camp

HAMPTON — Tyrod Taylor received his Super Bowl ring June 7. A week later his mom confiscated the most cherished bling in American team sports.

"I got the watch," said Taylor's dad, Rodney, laughing at his consolation prize.

The Taylors gathered at Darling Stadium on Saturday morning for Tyrod's second annual youth football camp. A Hampton High and Virginia Tech alum, he drove down for the weekend fresh off a mini-camp with the world champion Baltimore Ravens.

Taylor wore a Ravens visor but not the ring he earned as the backup to Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco, Baltimore's incumbent quarterback.

"I only wore it once, the day we got it," Taylor said. "Definitely going to a safe deposit box. Can't walk around with that thing on too many times. It's too valuable. I'll take it out for special occasions."

Saturday was special to Taylor on several levels.

He grew up, figuratively and literally, at Darling Stadium. As a kid, he attended games there with his parents. As Hampton High's quarterback, he packed the stands there.

Saturday's audience of 200-plus was far smaller, but the connection was far greater. The young people hung on Taylor's every word, even as he remained the humble, soft-spoken type that his coaches at every level have appreciated.

"Just to be able to give back to these kids and inspire them is a wonderful feeling," Taylor said.

The 2010 ACC Player of the Year at Virginia Tech, Taylor was drafted in the sixth round by the Baltimore Ravens. 'Twas a blessing and a curse.

A blessing because he joined a franchise accustomed to winning and teeming with established leaders such as linebacker Ray Lewis and safety Ed Reed. A curse because Flacco was, and is, entrenched as the team's starting quarterback.

Never more so than since February's Super Bowl conquest of the San Francisco 49ers.

"He played very well last year, all the years he's been there," Taylor said of Flacco. "I'm just learning from that guy. He's a great friend of mine. Well-deserved. He played lights out throughout the playoffs. As a quarterback, you can only hope a guy gets a contract like that."

Yes, the contract. Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks invariably cash in, and during the offseason Flacco signed a six-year deal worth a reported $120 million that makes him the highest-paid player in NFL history.

No one, not even Mrs. Flacco, considers Flacco the game's premier quarterback, but that's how the system works. Win, and you're the flavor du jour.

Flacco is, however, among the NFL's most durable quarterbacks. He's started every game each of the last five seasons, helping the Ravens make the playoffs each year.

All of which leaves precious little oxygen for the No. 2.

"Me being the backup, it's just perfecting my game," Taylor said. "Be ready for the opportunity. You never know what can happen. Take advantage of every preseason rep and continue to build your résumé on the field."

Taylor played in seven games last year, a majority of the snaps coming in the regular-season finale at Cincinnati. A playoff berth clinched, Baltimore coach John Harbaugh benched Flacco early, and Taylor completed 15 of 25 passes for 149 yards, with an interception.

Also, Taylor rushed for 65 yards and a touchdown on nine carries in the 23-17 loss, flashing the mobility that makes the likes of Washington's Robert Griffin III, Seattle's Russell Wilson and San Francisco's Colin Kaepernick so effective.

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