Thursday, Aug. 7, 2008

Former Gwynn Park lineman to transfer from Penn St.

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Former Gwynn Park High School football standout Phil Taylor, a defensive tackle for Penn State University the past two seasons, is looking for a new school and team after being removed from the Nittany Lions' roster last week.

The action was the culmination of a series of off-field incidents involving Penn State football players. Taylor, 6-foot-4 and 340 pounds, was a two-way lineman at Gwynn Park, graduating in 2006. He was removed from the team last week, shortly following a July 27 ESPN segment in which coach Joe Paterno talked about the football program's off-field troubles. ESPN reported that according to court records, 46 Penn State football players have faced 163 criminal charges since 2002.

Taylor had been suspended from the team for his role in a fight last year. He was spending the summer working out on his own and would have been eligible to rejoin the team Aug. 16. Repeated messages left with the Penn State Athletic Department seeking comment were not returned.

"ESPN lit into Paterno so badly that Paterno [after that] determined that the kids didn't learn a lesson and that they would have to sit out," said Phil Taylor's father, Phil Taylor. "I tried to talk to Paterno about it, but he was very rude and brushed me off. After the season ended, he was suspended for the summer season. Now, he has been removed for the same thing."

Taylor was in the "wrong place at the wrong time," his father said, in three separate incidents involving Penn State's football players dating back to April 2007. The second of those incidents was in October of last year in which Taylor, according to his father, broke up a fight at a frat party. Taylor's father said when his son intervened, one of the people involved in the fight punched him, and Taylor retaliated by pushing him down.

Taylor was charged by campus police for disorderly conduct along with two teammates, and also suspended one game — Oct. 13 against Wisconsin — but did play in the Alamo Bowl on Dec. 29.

An April 2007 incident that did not involve Taylor led Paterno to require the entire team to clean up Beaver Stadium the morning after home games last fall. Another incident this summer occurred at a party in which a girl was allegedly pushed into a pool. Taylor was not involved in that, said his father, though he did attend the party.

Taylor said his son plans to make a decision about his football future within the next month. If Taylor goes to another Division I program, he will have to sit out a year as a transfer. Virginia Tech, Rutgers, Maryland, Georgia, West Virginia and Baylor are among the schools he's considering. But if he opts to go to a lower-level school, he can play this season. Taylor is considering Division I-AA schools Hampton, Delaware and Florida A&M.

"If he has to sit out a year anyway, then let him transfer to another D-I school," said his father. "He wanted to transfer last year anyway, but I pushed him to stay there. He loved Penn State and loved his coaches, especially [defensive line coach] Larry Johnson. If he has to sit out a year, it won't be at Penn State."

Taylor started five games last season at Penn State, recording 20 tackles and three sacks.

E-mail Adam Rubenstein at arubenstein@gazette.net.