PITTSBURGH — This summer, during Duquesne basketball’s summer workouts, Kellon Taylor was a power forward, working as one of three returning regulars for head coach Keith Dambrot’s squad.
Then, the summer ended, and every member of the men’s basketball team got a much-deserved break before the start of school.
Except, that is, for Taylor, who immediately reported to Duquesne football training camp to continue his dual existence as a wide receiver.
Taylor is a rarity these days as a Division I athlete that plays multiple sports and in football and basketball, he’s picked the two that are perhaps the most demanding of an athlete’s time.
When the hooping Dukes returned to campus to resume their workouts at the end of August, Taylor didn’t join them. His time can only stretch so far. He’ll remain a wide receiver until football’s season ends in the fall, and then he’ll go right back to being a power forward.
All of this comes following a sophomore season that saw him make 20 grabs for 276 yards and three touchdowns on the gridiron, and the day after the football season ended, make his basketball debut and play 29 consecutive games the rest of the way, averaging 19.4 minutes per game and finishing fourth on the team in rebounds per game.
After the basketball season ended, it was spring football and then straight on into the summer. So needless to say, Taylor is tired. Exhausted might be the word for it. But you won’t hear him complain. After all, that’s what he signed up for when the Dukes — both teams — were recruiting him out of DeMatha Catholic High School in Washington, D.C.
“Every day, I’m exhausted, but again, that’s what I signed up for, so I can’t complain about practices or not getting a break,” Taylor said. “I’m never relaxing. This summer, I had to do my basketball workouts and then right after basketball, jumped straight into football. I really don’t ever get a break. That’s what I signed up for.”
Taylor said the physical part of the back-and-forth transition hasn’t even been the hardest part, and he’s actually seen some physical benefit to being a two-sport athlete.
“Basketball keeps me well conditioned, so when I come out here and I run my sprints and things like that, I think I’m in pretty good shape,” he said after a Duquesne football practice. “I know this year, I know I was definitely in much better shape than my freshman year. I came in a little bit more slim, a little more ready to go.
“Football helps me be more physical on the basketball court, which is kind of like my niche, is being a defensive-minded player, so I have to be physical, being a smaller guy out there.”
The hard part, or maybe the hardest part, is the mental side of both games. He’s being asked to be the master of two crafts, and that comes with a lot of off-the-field effort, focus and discipline. That’s the part that he was trying to put the most work into for the 2018 football season.
“Just coming in more prepared, being more focused,” he said. “Understanding that football is more than just the physical aspect. It’s 90 percent mental. So, I think taking my mental steps has helped me progress. I always had good physical abilities, but it’s understanding the plays, understanding what the quarterback is looking at in certain reeds, what my running backs are going to do while I’m blocking, things like that, and just being more prepared and more focused on the game.”
That transition took a bit of a hiccup this fall, when Taylor was supposed to be moving from wide receiver to tight end. But some outside factors changed that, putting Taylor right back to where he was a year ago.
“We had some plans on using him as a move tight end before we lost two receivers to injury and one to transfer,” head coach Jerry Schmitt said. “He was going to be an inside guy and a move tight end because he blocks really well. So, he had to move back out and now he’s required to be the guy, or one of the guys with Nehari [Crawford].”
Schmitt has seen noticeable improvement in the details department and said that while Taylor has always been a top-notch athlete, that knowledge of the game and focus on detail is what is going to elevate him to a great one.
“He could be dynamic,” Schmitt said. “So, he’s working through that. I’ve seen improved focus out of him. We’re looking for him to continue to do better things every week, and by better, he’s got good hand and makes plays, but we’re talking about taking over a game.”