ORLANDO, Fla. — Florida legacy Kelvin Taylor has managed to forge his own path at UF, but it will end the same place his father’s did.
At the Citrus Bowl on New Year’s Day.
In his last game with the Gators 17 years ago, Fred Taylor ran the ball 43 times for a Citrus Bowl-record 234 yards in Florida’s 21-6 win over Penn State.
The younger Taylor will also cap off his college career in Orlando against a Big Ten team — Michigan.
“It’s very cool,” Taylor said of going out like his father. “It’s going to be a great experience. I’m going to be sad, but at the same time, I’m going to enjoy myself.”
Like Fred, Kelvin’s last game in The Swamp was his best, and it came against rival Florida State. Taylor will be hard-pressed to match his dad’s Orlando outing, but he’s put up big numbers in the Citrus Bowl before.
As a high school freshman, Taylor rushed for 214 yards on 42 carries as his Glades Day Gators won the 2009 Class 1B state title in Orlando.
The following year, Glades Day returned to the Citrus Bowl and repeated as champs. Taylor set the FHSAA state finals record for carries (44) and finished with 254 yards rushing.
Though Taylor will cross paths with his dad’s legacy Friday at the Citrus Bowl, he did not follow his exact footsteps to get there. His father’s finale in Orlando came as a senior, and that record-setting bowl game helped catapult him into the first round of the 1998 NFL draft.
After a career-low performance in the SEC Championship on Dec. 5, Taylor could use a productive day against Michigan to improve his draft stock as he enters the league early.
“It was pretty much just the best fit for me and for my career going in the future,” Taylor said of his decision to his turn pro. “I just feel like this is the perfect timing, and timing is everything.”
Taylor had a breakout season this year, rushing for 985 yards and 13 touchdowns, the latter number being the most by a Florida running back since his father scored 13 in 1997.
Taylor also has more mileage on his body than your average junior running back. He played five years of varsity football for Glades Day and had a heavy workload in 2015, ending the regular season with the second-longest streak of games with 15-plus carries (11) among FBS players.
For Taylor, 22, another year at UF may not have helped him the way it did his dad.
“I leaned on my father a whole lot,” Taylor said. “His situation, everybody has different situations. We just sat down and had a really hard talk with my mother.
“We came to an agreement. That’s why we did it. I’m not leaving just to go. It all made sense.”
Taylor, who said his decision kept him up at night, is at peace with forgoing his senior season, but he wants a memorable farewell with the Gators.
“Wasn’t really an easy (decision), but I feel like it was a smart one,” Taylor said. “I’m going to miss Gator Nation. … I’m looking forward to just finishing with a bang.
“It’s going to be great out there Friday.”
Florida fans will be hoping it’s déjà vu.