CENTREVILLE, Va. — Levonta Taylor said he returned for a second year to Nike’s The Opening regional in the Washington, D.C., area to show “there’s a reason why I’m getting to the open” in Oregon.
That reason — or at least one of them — was the impressive numbers the five-star junior cornerback from Ocean Lakes High in Virginia put up.
Taylor, who committed to Florida State in early April, ran the the 40-yard dash in 4.34 seconds and had a 42.2-inch vertical leap Sunday. Taylor’s results would have placed him fourth in both events if he participated in the 2015 NFL Combine in February and were in the 99th percentile of players who have participated in the seven regional events since February. Six more regional events remain.
Overall, Taylor had the highest Nike SPARQ combine score of any player at any combine site this year.
Thanks to that performance and his work in position drills, Taylor earned an invite to the national event in July for the second consecutive summer, a feat that has happened only a handful times in the last year. About 160 players will earn invitations to attend the four-day camp at the Nike World Headquarters.
Taylor spoke with USA TODAY High School Sports about attending The Open, his commitment to Florida State and the relief of having made a decision.
You got invited to The Opening in Oregon last year. What brought you back to try again?
I wanted to compete get to that open invite once again and come away with the MVP.
How have things changed since your commitment?
It changed with the fans. The fans are still trying hard to recruit me. But I’ve been begging off phone calls because I’m 100 percent committed to Florida State.
Why was this the right time?
I’ve been recruited since I’ve been an eighth grader. It was a long process. It’s been stressful. Florida State, I have a good relationship with them and it’s the team that I wanted to play for.
Is there some sense of relief?
Yes, it is. I’ve been thinking about colleges every night. It’s good for me to be committed now, and focus on my SAT, ACT and grades and graduating.
What’s been the reaction of the fans who have reached out to you?
Happy. They said we needed a guy like me in the secondary. The fans are loving me. I’m ready go in and ball.
How does being committed change how you approach your high school season?
It changes a little bit. Now I can focus on football and school and my teammates and winning the championship. There is a very relieved feeling to that as well.
For people who don’t know your game, how would you describe it?
Very fast and physical.
What do you want to work on between now and getting to Tallahassee?
The biggest thing is just to stay strong. We have a very good workout program at my school. My speed and quickness are my best attributes to my game so I want to keep improving on those things and also be smart in the classroom.
Contributing: Safid Deen, Tallahassee Democrat