It was not the typical way to earn an opportunity with an NFL team, but two Coahoma Community College players were able to grab the attention of coaches and executives and get drafted last week.
The Philadelphia Eagles selected linebacker Davion Taylor, who played for CCC in 2016 and 2017, in the third round with the 103rd pick. He played for Colorado his last two years. The Jacksonville Jaguars selected cornerback and kick returner Chris Claybrooks, who was a sophomore with the Tigers in 2017, in the seventh round with the 223rd pick. He played for Memphis his last two yers.
Taylor, a Magnolia native, could not play high school football because he was a Seventh-day Adventist. His religious beliefs did not allow him to play after sundown on Friday and Saturday night.
As a senior at South Pike High School, Taylor played a game and a half. The full game was at home against Jefferson County and the half game was at Franklin County.
Taylor’s coach, John Culpepper, called his mother and told him he was playing well in the Jefferson County game. He asked if Taylor could finish the game after sundown.
“She let me finish the game out,” Taylor said.
However, Taylor did not finish the second game after sundown.
He originally thought his only options were to play near home at Southwest Mississippi Community College or Copiah-Lincoln Community College, but CCC gave him a tryout on a Thursday.
“I blew them out of the water,” Taylor said. “I went that summer as a walk-on.”
Taylor started his last three games as a freshman, had more than 50 tackles for the season and around 70 tackles after earning a scholarship as a sophomore.
“I tried to have a little impact on special teams and that’s what I did,” Taylor said.
Taylor’s best game at CCC came in a loss at East Mississippi Community College where he had 11 tackles and one interception. He called EMCC “one of the best teams in the nation.”
“My score didn’t tell it, but it was one of my best games personally,” Taylor said.
Taylor maintains his Christian faith, but his religious beliefs did not stop him from playing at CCC or Colorado and it will not be an issue in the NFL.
“There isn’t any conflict anymore,” Taylor said. “When I did try out for Coahoma, I was inches away from being cut.”
Taylor said he felt God showed his approval of his plans by supporting his journey to play football.
“Whenever I play, I know he’s by my side the whole way,” Taylor said.
Claybrooks, originally from Nashville, Tenn., played at Fort Scott Community College in Kansas as a freshman in 2016. When Fort Scott assistant head coach and offensive coordinator Moses Harper took a position at CCC as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, Claybrooks went with him.
“Coach Harper was at Fort Scott Community College,” Claybrooks said. “He left Fort Scott and he left for Coahoma.
“I felt like it was only the right move to go with Coach Harper. It was close to home, close to Nashville anyway.”
Claybrooks said Harper has been in touch with him to congratulate him on getting drafted.
Claybrooks was a wide receiver at CCC and his best game came at home against Co-Lin when he had 180 yards receiving and one touchdown. He was the Tigers player of the week.
Yet another change came for Claybrooks when he played for the Memphis Tigers. He switched positions from wide receiver to cornerback.
“I ran my 40 (yard dash) and I ran a 4.2 and the head coach, he just instantly changed my spot,” Claybrooks said. “He was like, ‘You’re fast and we need DBs.’
“He was like, ‘You’re going to hate me now, but you’re going to thank me later on.’”
He was a walk-on in 2018, but the change worked out so well that he earned a full scholarship in 2019.
Claybrooks said he did thank his coach after everything worked out.
Taylor and Claybrooks reflected on getting drafted.
Taylor was at his second mom’s house with a couple of friends.
“I was sitting in the living room and I was getting real, real anxious,” recalled Taylor, adding legs were shaking.
The third round was coming to an end when the Eagles called. That was not the call Taylor expected.
“I thought it was the Patriots because the Patriots were on the clock,” Taylor said.
“All I could say was thank you, God. I was just overjoyed with the situation.”
Taylor said he will be getting his pads next week. Although COVID-19 is preventing teams from meeting, he will be staying in shape, even if he has to run around garbage cans on the field.
“I have to continue to do my workouts every day, continue to grind and work hard,” Taylor said.
There will be virtual team meetings Taylor plans to take seriously.
“Once I get to Philadelphia, I have to be ready to go,” Taylor said.
Taylor does not believe the start of the season should be delayed.
“Me, personally, I think there should be a season, even if I don’t play in front of fans,” he said.
Claybrooks was home when he received a call from the Jaguars about his selection. His family members did not hear he was picked from him, as they saw it on the TV screen.
“I just feel amazing,” Claybrooks said. “I just feel like all my hard work paid off. I just worked my butt off to get where I’m at. I just went to play two JUCO. I was still grinding. I prayed up to God. I thought the Ravens were going to get me or someone else, but the Jaguars called.”
The coach asked Claybrooks how he felt and he said was ready to make it happen.
“He said, “Just be ready when you get here.’ I said, ‘Yes, Sir,’” said Claybrooks, adding he went outside jumping up and down after the pick.
Claybrooks thought the Baltimore Ravens may select him for awhile.
“They talked to me awhile back, a day before the draft,” he said. “The Jaguars came out of nowhere. They talked to me two weeks ago, but I didn’t know they were going to draft me. It was a surprise.”
Claybrooks plans to workout and be prepared for the season.
“My opinion, I think it should start on time,” he said. “The virus part won’t last that long.”
Meanwhile, Claybrooks plans to workout in his trainer’s gym in the garage in Nashville, use the treadmill and learn the Jaguars’ playbook.
Claybrooks said the Jaguars run a Cover 4 scheme.
“They run a good little scheme for me,” he said. “Their playbook fits what I do with special teams and defense. I felt like I could go in and make an impact instantly.”
Claybrooks thanked the CCC football program for all of its help.
“I want to thank Coahoma for giving me a shot and being there for the hard times and good times,” he said. “I just want to say thank you again Coahoma. I just want to say, ‘Go Duval.’”
The Jaguars play in Duval County, Fla.