STAR-BULLETIN / JULY 2002
Nian Taylor of the Hawaiian Islanders leads the team in scoring with 14 touchdowns, receptions with 39, and receiving yards with 580.
off the field
The Islanders' leading scorer
is a star with the af2 team
and with troubled youths
The way Nian Taylor glides his way along a football field testifies to his ability to alter the game around him.
Who: Louisville Fire vs. Hawaiian Islanders
When: Tomorrow, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Blaisdell Arena
Radio: KUMU2 1500-AM
Tickets: Lower Level and loge sold out. Upper level adult $10, children (ages 4-17) $7.
Since joining the Hawaiian Islanders late last season, the silky receiver/linebacker has made an indelible impact on the team's fortunes. Taylor has 25 touchdowns in 13 games with the Islanders and has been instrumental on both sides of the ball during the team's 6-2 start this season.
While Taylor's stats indicate his productivity on the field, signs of his work as a difference maker outside of the game are also evident on the streets of Southern California.
When he's not chasing down footballs, Taylor works with at-risk youths at the Creata Group Home in his hometown of Riverside. There he provides guidance for troubled youngsters ages 6-13 in hopes of altering the direction of their lives.
"They don't have anybody," Taylor said. "Basically I'm a big kid anyway, so they see me as a kid playing with them and telling right from wrong.
"I want to see them grow up and be good kids. You just have to sit down and talk to them. Once you get one on one with them, it's a totally different story. They change into a little kid and they'll listen. You just try to change their lives around."
It's because of those kids that Taylor has the Islanders' June 21 game at San Diego circled on his schedule. He's trying to work out a plan to have the children and teens he works with attend the game and watch him play for the first time.
"That'll mean a lot," he said. "They always say, 'You play football?' but they've never seen me play. Once they see me play and see me with the helmet and I'm saying 'Hi' to them during the game, that's going to make them real excited. It's going to be something big for me."
If Taylor continues his recent production, he'll give the kids a lot to get excited about.
Taylor leads the Islanders with 39 receptions for 580 yards and 14 touchdowns this season, and ranks second on the team in tackles with 25 and has recovered two fumbles.
In Hawaii's last two games, Taylor has caught 11 passes for 175 yards and seven touchdowns and recorded 12 tackles and won arenafootball2's national Ironman of the Week award for his effort against Wichita on May 16, when he scored three touchdowns and recorded six solo tackles.
"It's cool," Taylor said of the award, "but that's what I'm supposed to do."
He followed that with a four-TD performance in Hawaii's 35-28 win at Cincinnati last week.
Taylor's ability to get behind the opposing secondary has forced teams to adjust their defensive schemes when they face the Islanders and has opened up more options for quarterback Darnell Arceneaux.
"Nian demands so much respect right now that he's getting something that you don't really see a lot in arena ball," Arceneaux said. "(Defenses) are playing cover-three, where they put two guys over the top, which opens up the underneath stuff. That's what a lot of teams will do on the outdoor field so you'd have to go a long ways to score. But in this game, three or four plays and you're already down the field."
Taylor began last season with the Richmond Speed, but was reassigned to the Islanders in week 12 and played in the Islanders' final five games last season. He scored 11 touchdowns in that span to help the team win three of its final four games to finish at 5-11.
"He brought a lot of energy and ... he's got that experience playing in big games," Arceneaux said. "He was just a confident guy that came in and said, 'Give me a chance to get my hands on the ball.' When he came in he contributed right away."
His production this season has helped the Islanders take the lead in the National Conference West Division and spurred the team's playoff hopes.
"This year is more organized," Taylor said. "Last year guys were on their own. This year we're a team, we're a family. We came together and everybody wants to bring a championship home to Hawaii."
Taylor played his college ball at Washington State, where he racked up 2,447 receiving yards and played in the 1998 Rose Bowl against Michigan. Taylor caught a 46-yard pass -- against Heisman Trophy winner Charles Woodson -- in the final seconds as the Cougars mounted a frantic drive before falling 21-16.
Despite ranking among the Pac-10's leading receivers, Taylor didn't get a tryout with an NFL squad, as torn muscles in his quadriceps and calf scared off some teams. So like many players in af2, Taylor is hoping his efforts with the Islanders will eventually lead to a shot in the NFL.
"I want to get on the big field and be out there and show what I've got," Taylor said. "I'm working hard out there to get to where I need to be."
Although he has his eye on goals beyond af2, Taylor remains committed to helping the Islanders reach the playoffs this season.
Taylor's dual quests mean spending most of the summer away from the kids back home. But he's looking forward to checking up on them later this season.
"I know they're acting bad because I'm not around, but I'll have a talk with them when we go to San Diego," he said.