It’s usually not too difficult to get a smile out of Delrick Abrams Jr., but after working out for NFL scouts at Colorado’s pro day earlier this month, the smile was particularly bright.
“I feel like I had a good day,” said Abrams, a 6-foot-2, 191-pound cornerback. “I’m proud of all the stuff I did. I have no regrets.”
Walking on the track that surrounds CU’s indoor practice field, Davion Taylor matched Abrams’ enthusiasm that day.
“I’m so happy,” Taylor, a 6-0.5, 226-pound linebacker, said. “I’m so satisfied with what I did. I was smooth when I was running, smooth when I was doing my jumps, so I felt comfortable. I felt ready to go.”
Abrams and Taylor are among the several Buffs who hope to get their name called during the NFL Draft next month and they’ve put themselves in position to do so despite the odds being against them not long ago.
Abrams is a potential late-round pick, while Taylor was projected as a late third-round pick in a recent mock draft by CBSSports.com.
“Whatever happens on draft day is what happens,” Abrams said. “I’m just blessed to even have to opportunity to be here. Most people don’t have the opportunity. God first and I just keep working.”
While they didn’t grow up together, Abrams and Taylor have had similar journeys to this point in their football careers. Both came from small towns in the South, went the junior college route to get noticed and then wound up becoming key pieces to the puzzle on the CU defense.
“I think that makes us real close because we both know where we came from and nobody really makes it out of our two schools,” Abrams said. “Yeah, the odds were against us.”
Abrams was born in Bogalusa, La., and played at Varnado High School in Angie, La. Varnado has less than 180 high school students and, according to pro-football-reference.com, has produced two NFL players – defensive linemen Jon Carter and Steve Martin, who each played one season in the late 1980s. Carter, a fifth-round choice of the New York Giants in 1988, is the only Varnado alum to get drafted.
“People thought I went to a small school and there was no good talent,” Abrams said. “They said I didn’t play against anybody; and me going to JUCO, everybody there is from bigger schools. It’s always made me humble at the end of the day.”
Abrams played two seasons at Independence (Kan.) Community College, and was an all-conference performer for the Pirates. By the end of his time at Indy, he was rated a top-75 junior college prospect and signed with the Buffs.
Although he dealt with some minor injuries at CU, Abrams was a two-year starter at corner, playing in 21 of 24 games. Overall, he posted 99 tackles and 15 pass breakups. At pro day, he posted a 4.5-second time in the 40 and a broad jump of 128 inches.
Taylor grew up about an hour away from Abrams, in McComb, Miss. He graduated from South Pike High School, which has an enrollment of fewer than 500 students. South Pike has produced five NFL players, with guard Tre Stallings being the most recent draft pick, in 2006.
“I really am (amazed),” Taylor said of how far he has come. “If you’d go back and tell me when I was in high school that I would be in this position (to go to the NFL), I would not believe you at all.”
Of course, for Taylor, that is in part because he wasn’t playing football in high school. Due to his mother’s religious beliefs, which prohibited sporting activities from Friday night to Sunday morning, Taylor did not participate in football, but played basketball and ran track.
When Taylor went to Coahoma (Miss.) Community College, he got his mother’s blessing to play football. Raw talent helped Taylor excel at Coahoma, where he played two seasons and became one of the highest-rated JUCO outside linebackers in the country.
Recruited to CU – along with Abrams, in 2018 – by former head coach Mike MacIntyre, Taylor has spent the past two seasons learning about the game, while often flashing his talent.
“I never thought I was going to be in this position,” he said. “I’ve learned so much. Having two different coaching staffs (at CU), some people probably think that is bad, but having two different coaching staffs taught me so much more about football. Coach MacIntyre, he taught me a lot about the basics of how to play football, basically how to take on blocks, how to do different things. When coach (Mel) Tucker came in, it was more just bringing physicality out of me and bringing an extra toughness that I feel like I needed to go to the next level.”
Taylor started 10 games in 2018 at outside linebacker and then started 10 games last season at the Star position in Tucker’s defense. In two seasons, he racked up 144 tackles, 20.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks and three fumble recoveries.
With exceptional athleticism and speed, Taylor has impressed scouts this offseason. At the NFL Combine, he was third among linebackers in the 40-yard dash (4.49 seconds), tied for fifth on bench press reps of 225 pounds (21), fourth in the broad jump (127 inches), fourth in the 3-cone shuttle (6.96 seconds) and sixth in the shuttle (4.26 seconds). He then posted a 4.39 in the 40 at CU’s pro day.
“Hopefully it’ll raise my draft stock,” he said. “The 4.4 (at the combine) was still fast, but I knew I could do it faster. I’m just really excited with my progression throughout the last couple months and I’m excited for the future.”
The future is bright for both, whether or not they get drafted. Both are sure to at least get into training camps with NFL teams and that’s a long way from Angie or McComb.
“My school didn’t really have D-I (talent), big time D-I,” Abrams said, “so it’s just a blessing and I’m trying to put it on for my city, the village – we call it the village because it’s a small town – that anything is possible if you keep moving forward.
“I’m very excited about it. I’m nervous about it, but at the end of the day, God knows what he’s doing.”