Taylor gets ready for final game in Athens

Tony Taylor

ATHENS – Tony Taylor won't say it publicly. In fact, he won't say much publicly, but this is the season Georgia's senior linebacker wanted.

Not the 7-4 record, nobody wanted that, but the 81 tackles, five interceptions, 6.5 tackles-for-loss, three sacks, 10 quarterback hurries.

"Before the season started, he never thought he'd have a year like this," said fellow senior linebacker Danny Verdun Wheeler. "We'd always talk about, ‘Man, it'd be great to have five or six interceptions, five or six sacks, over 100 tackles. His dream season came true."

Taylor, who will play his last game in Sanford Stadium on Saturday against No. 16 Georgia Tech at 3:30 p.m., leads the Bulldogs (4-4 SEC) in tackles and was the unlikely interception leader until safety Tra Battle grabbed three against Auburn. Taylor hasn't played against the Yellow Jackets (9-2) since 2003, when he had six tackles, including two for loss. He missed all the 2004 season due and last year's Tech game due to injury.

"It's like playing your little brother or your older cousins, it's just one of those games you never want to lose," he said.

Only three other linebackers in the country have as many interceptions as Taylor.

"It seems like he's made every big play when it's been needed this season," junior cornerback Paul Oliver said.

Taylor is 10th in the SEC in tackles and only one interception away from sharing the conference lead.

"You always feel like you could have played better at any given time or done more to help your team out," he said, "but I don't have any complaints."

That's about all you'll get from Taylor about his own performance or just about any subject, and that's fine with Coach Mark Richt.

"You talk about leadership, Tony and Quentin Moses, they don't like to be out front," Richt said. "They don't like to be the outspoken leaders. They just want to show up to work and do their job every single day. That's all the leadership I need out of those guys."

Taylor, who has averaged 9.1 tackles in the last eight games, says it's not in his personality to speak out unless he thinks it's absolutely vital.

"I feel like the young guys can follow you more if you lead by example instead of you telling them to do something," he said. "I try to do the little things. I'm old, so it takes me a little while to get going. These younger guys are out here sprinting around every place, but I just try to stick to my assignments, do the little things just so they can see it and pick up on it."

Verdun Wheeler said he and Taylor try to play the game with the same attitude: "Act like you've done it before; act like you're a champion; act like you're a winner; act like you can make plays, you've made plenty of plays before. That's how he is, a laid-back, cool guy."

With 10 more tackles, Taylor will be 19th on the Bulldogs' career tackles list. He'll graduate in December and then begin preparing for the NFL Draft.

"It's hard not to think about that," he said, "but I've just been trying to enjoy my last couple weeks on this campus and being a University of Georgia player."

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