In his weekly column, Dudley E. Dawson catches up with Englewood (CO) Cherry Creek offensive lineman Taylor Paxton, who will be in Fayetteville Saturday for Arkansas' camp.
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When you’ve had the legendary John Elway as your quarterback coach, there’s probably not too much that can come along that will faze you.
So when Englewood (CO) Cherry Creek offensive guard Taylor Paxton (6-5, 260) - a former Arkansan - decided to take on an ambitious summer camp tour of college football programs, it was really nothing to get all that worked up about.
That tour – which has included camp stops at Mississippi State, Georgia, North Carolina, Kansas State and Alabama – will end Saturday when he goes through Arkansas’ one-day event.
This final stop is a little more special for Paxton, who lived in Benton until kindergarten and still has family living in Arkansas.
“Most of my family lives in Star City, which is down by Pine Bluff,” Paxton said. “My family are huge Razorback fans. I use to live in Benton and all my friends are Arkansas fans. I didn’t stay there long enough to become a huge one, but still have always followed them and always enjoyed watching the Piggies.”
Paxton, an excellent student who sports a 3.9 grade point average and posted a 31 on his ACT this summer, is learning about new UA head coach Bobby Petrino and anxious to meet him and his staff this weekend.
“I really don’t know too much about Coach Petrino and the offense they are going to run, but my uncle that use to coach at Henderson State (George Baker) and my grandfather know a couple of people (on the staff),” Paxton said. “They have good things to say about them.”
Paxton, whose team starts two-a-days on Aug. 11, has tried to put his best foot forward at each stop and also gone in with an attitude of learning new techniques.
“I’ve felt like they’ve all went really well,” Paxton said. “I felt like I have performed well and that I have learned a lot from the coaches. Getting out there and getting seen was a major point, but I also knew it would help me with my skills for this upcoming season and it has definitely done that.”
While these trips have yet to bring about any offers, each school has told Paxton they remain highly interested as they evaluate their options.
“Currently I have no offers and it’s a wait-and-see thing for me right now,” Paxton said. “A lot of them want to see more film, see me in game action next year. I can tell you it will be a big weight off my shoulders when I get that first one. Until then I will just keep on fighting.”
Asked to describe his strengths and weaknesses, Paxton offered up the following.
“As far as on the field, I have been told that I have a center’s mentality and I basically know where everyone is supposed to be and what they are suppose to do on just about any play,” Paxton said. “I make pretty good on-the-fly adjustments. I think I am a pretty strong pass blocker and a pretty good run blocker.
“I think I definitely have the technical skills, but I am a little skinny right now,” Paxton added. “I do think I have the frame to put on weight and that is one of my goals. I am probably about 260 right now, but by the time I graduate I would like to be 280 or 285 and then have the coaches put on what they want on me once I get to college.”
Cherry Creek has been known as one of Colorado’s top high school athletic programs with numerous state championships in football, tennis, golf and baseball over the years.
“As far as Creek, we have always had great athletic programs as far as winning championships,” Paxton said. “We have one of the nation’s best tennis programs in the country and have won eight state championships in football with the last one being in 1996.
“We are trying to bring the tradition back in the 1990s, where we won five state championships,” Paxton said. “Hopefully we are on the verge of building that back up. Last year we went 8-3 and lost in the second round of the playoffs to the team that went on to be the state champions.”
“We have a really strong senior class returning, even with losing a lot of good ones – our quarterback Jack Elway was one,” Paxton said. “Losing him hurts, but other than losing his arm I think we will be okay offensively. As freshmen, our current senior class scored over 500 points and gave up less than 50.”
Elway has moved on to Arizona State with his dad following along to watch after tutoring him for his senior season.
“The last year he was the quarterback coach so he was around for just about every practice,” Paxton said. “He really helped us out a lot. It was a great thing to have him around for his knowledge.”
Pictures of Paxton in uniform show a painted up face similar to the one former Razorback defensive player Sacha Lancaster used to don before games.
“I started that my sophomore year before my first varsity game,” Paxton said. “I had seen a couple of guys do it. I used to just do the black stripes, but then I decided I wanted more of a warrior look to let them know that even going out there as a sophomore, that I wasn’t going to be weak and I would have my game face on and be ready to go.”