Our pre-draft series concludes with a profile on a Stanford running back with ties to Jim Harbaugh.
Stepfan Taylor owns several important rushing records at Stanford University. Most rushing yards and most carries are two of the records he proudly holds.
The senior running back rushed for 4,212 yards on 823 carries in his four-year career, he also added the second-most rushing touchdowns in school history with 39.
The 5-foot-9, 214-pound running back also tied the school record with 44 total touchdowns.
Taylor loves to compete. Even with an impressive football resume, he didn’t rest on his production this offseason. He continued to showcase his talents to 32 NFL clubs.
At the 2013 Senior Bowl, Taylor went out to display all the characteristics that earned him second-team All-Pac-12 honors for a second consecutive year.
Running the ball is one thing Taylor is good at, but at the Senior Bowl, he wanted to prove he could be a three-down back in the NFL.
“I wanted to focus on things other than running the ball, trying to show them I’m willing to get on the field and pass protect, catch the ball out of the backfield, things like that,” the productive runner said back in February. “I think that helped me out a lot.”
Looking back on it, Taylor felt the decision to compete in Mobile, Ala., went a long way in boosting his draft stock.
“I’m glad I went to it,” he said. "It was a great decision on my part. I feel like it helped me out for this whole process.”
Taylor recently helped his stock with a 4.63, 40-yard dash at the 2013 Stanford Pro Day. It was just the latest great performance by the Cardinal running back who also was named offensive MVP at the 2013 Rose Bowl.
Production is one thing, but Taylor knows that NFL teams want to see top-flight speed from incoming rookies. That’s why his biggest focus this offseason has been on showcasing his explosive running ability.
“I know teams want to see that from me,” said the running back who rushed for more than 1,000 yards in each of his last three seasons in the Pac-12.
Taylor rushed for 1,137 yards in 2010, Jim Harbaugh’s final year as Stanford’s head coach. He continued to boost his rushing totals each year after with 1,330 and 1,530 in the 2011 and 2012 seasons, respectively.
“I can just control what I can control,” Taylor said. “That’s the main thing my parents taught me, my mom taught me. Be patient and control what you can control. I can’t put my words into somebody else’s mouth.
“I’m going to go out there and play the game and help my team win games and be productive. As long as I’m being productive and helping the team get W’s, that’s all that should matter at the end of the day.”
Stanford’s teams reached three BCS bowl games with Taylor as the team’s every-down running back. It’s also worth noting that Taylor shined in a power offensive attack, one that is being utilized by the 49ers the past two seasons.
Taylor, however, feels versatile enough to carry out any offensive system.
“I like power, I like outside, I like one-back,” he said. “In high school I played in the spread system and pro styles. I’ve had a chance to be familiar so I’m kind of used to whatever play they take. I’ve been coached well enough to be able to run inside zone and a gap scheme and things like that.”
Versatility is one thing, but character is a whole different ballgame. With regards to Taylor, the Stanford running back understands what it means to be a team-player. That’s one of the many reasons why he was recruited by Harbaugh.
“It’s start with coaches recruiting the right players to be in our locker room, who want to run what we run at Stanford and do things how we do,” Taylor said when asked to sum up his success on the farm. “You’ve got to be a team-first player. In the locker room, it’s up to us to keep the locker room together and tight, and we do a great job of that, not having any cliques in the locker room or things like that.
“When it comes to a season like we had this year, where a lot of games came down to the last minute, having a close locker room definitely helped us out a lot, being able to stick together and pull out those wins.”