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Taylor inducted into Vanderbilt Hall of Fame

Posted on Monday, March 4, 2024 at 8:21 pm

Photos courtesy of Vanderbilt Athletics Shelbyville native Whit Taylor is all smiles as he is inducted into the Vanderbilt Hall of Fame.

Photo courtesy of Vanderbilt Athletics While playing quarterback for Vanderbilt, Taylor led the Commodores to an 8-3 regular season in 1982 and earned All-SEC honors in the process.

By Graham Hays
Vanderbilt Athletics
Although he went on to earn a lasting place in Vanderbilt lore as a quarterback, Whit Taylor’s first action as a Commodore came on defense against an Auburn team with three future NFL Pro Bowlers in its backfield. One problem: Taylor hadn’t played defense in high school.
That game might not have been the highlight of Taylor’s stay in Nashville, but the effort, his only appearance in a redshirt season, highlighted a willingness to do anything to help the team.
That spirit endured after he returned to more familiar ground at quarterback under head coach George MacIntyre and offensive coordinator Watson Brown. He seized the starting job midway through his redshirt freshman season, and once Brown arrived before the 1981 season and implemented a pass-happy offense in a run-heavy conference, Taylor never looked back.
He vividly recalls sitting in a meeting room in the McGugin Center when MacInytre introduced Brown, previously the head coach at Austin Peay, to student-athletes.
“The first question out of his mouth was ‘How many of you sitting in this room think we can lead the SEC in total offense this year?’” Taylor said recently on the Conversations with Commodores podcast. “I’ll be honest with you, not very many hands went up. There were a few, I think just because they thought that’s what he wanted us to do. I didn’t raise my hand. But he was confident.
“After that, he called me into his office and said, ‘If we’re going to be good, you’re going to have to be good. You’re going to have to carry a lot on your shoulders. If it goes well, you’re going to get a lot of praise, a lot of pub, a lot of statistics. But if it doesn’t, it’s going to be on you, buddy. I need to know if you can handle that.’”
Taylor answered in the affirmative, but actions spoke louder than any words.
As a junior, he earned second-team All-SEC honors and set a program single-game record with 464 passing yards against Tennessee. A year later, he topped even those heights. A first-team All-SEC selection in 1982, Taylor led Vanderbilt to an 8-3 regular season, capped by a 28-21 home win against the Vols. Even in defeat against Air Force in the Hall of Fame Bowl, he earned MVP honors with 452 passing yards, still the second-most yards in a game in program history.
After college, he went on to play three seasons in the USFL and won the inaugural Arena Bowl in his lone season in the Arena Football League.
In 2020, he was honored by the Bedford County School System upon retirement after 23 years of service, most recently as assistant principal of East Side Elementary in Shelbyville.