IOWA CITY, Iowa – Tory Taylor understands — he’s the old guy in the Iowa football building.
“In any athletic department, probably,” the Hawkeyes’ punter joked on Tuesday.
Taylor is 24 years old — he’ll turn 25 before next season — and, although he’s just in his third year of playing football, he’s a veteran voice around the Hawkeyes.
So, the coaching staff tells him, speak up.
“Coaches will be like, ‘I know you don’t want to, but sometimes you don’t have a choice,’” Taylor said. “Which I kind of take as a compliment, because it means guys look up to me. It makes me feel good about myself.”
It’s not something that has been his nature in the past.
“I usually kept to myself and let my football do a lot of the talking,” Taylor said.
It is in the game where Taylor has been able to speak. He had 3,688 punting yards last season — a new program record. Thirty-nine of his 80 punts were inside the 20-yard line.
Still, Taylor knows he can be better.
“Probably just trying to minimize the gap between the good and the bad,” he said of his offseason work. “From a punting point of view, just trying to be more consistent.”
But he’s learned about the game outside of the game. It’s all about getting your mind right, Taylor has found out in his time with the Hawkeyes.
“I think the thing about being a specialist is it’s all mental,” Taylor said. “For us, it’s more like a mental game. It’s one of those things, like, you never know when you’re going to be out there. So I think a lot of us have been working on the mental side of things. Because at the end of the day, the mind controls everything.”
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It’s about controlling what you can control. For Taylor, that means personal growth as well as growth on the field.
“Me being older, it’s not just a football thing,” he said. “It’s life experiences, mostly. I just want to be there for guys that need it. I know I’d rather be a good person than a good football player, and I think it’s important for other guys to see that as well.
“I’ll always judge people on what they are as a person, not as a football player. It’s two or three hours on a Saturday. The way I look at it, I’m only going to be a football player for so long, but I’m going to be my own individual until I’m dead. So I want to be a good person instead of a good football player.”
His voice kept going.
“It’s really not that hard to be nice, is it?” Taylor said. “That’s really who I am, and I’m not just saying that to the camera. I’m pretty easygoing. I don’t really take too much seriously, because life is too short.”
Taylor, who is from Australia, never had played American football until he joined the Hawkeyes for the 2020 season.
“From a football standpoint, I’m pretty young, just because I really don’t know too much about it,” he said. “I think that actually helps me. I kind of just go out there and catch the ball and do my thing. I think that helps.”
But he’s learning about the game, including the off-the-field criticism from fans, infectious voices that can grow with every loss.
Tuning that out is the message Taylor delivers.
“What frustrates me is we’re the ones putting in the work,” he said. “We want to win more than the other people. We’re the ones who started this back in January. We’re not the ones sitting at home drinking a beer and eating a hot dog on the couch, like most of them. We want to win more than anyone else.
“I think that’s a thing people don’t quite grasp. Losses hurt, just as much as anything, because we’re putting in the work. … That’s one thing I’ve tried to tell others — if they’re not your friend or they’re not your mate or they’re not your family, I really wouldn’t be too worried about what they say.”
But Taylor knows he has to say things, too. It’s not easy, but it’s part of the job.
“That’s one of the things I’ve been working on in the spring,” he said. “Just bringing others along for the ride.”