In the face of an injury that has denied him his 2008 season and essentially pushed back his life one year, Jaycen Taylor doesn't break character for a moment.
On Tuesday it was confirmed that the senior running back tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during an 11-on-11 drill Sunday. He is lost for the season and facing an estimated recovery time of six months or so. He will redshirt this year and return to the field in 2009.
Nonetheless, the well-respected upperclassmen who may be defined as a person by his unwavering enthusiasm just won't stop smiling.
It's not that he's happy; it's just that he refuses to be unhappy.
"You try to think of the positive sides of everything. I'm guaranteed graduation. I do have another year. It's not like it's my senior year and I had already done my redshirt. That would have been a different story. I can still come back next year," Taylor said at a mini-press conference outside the Mollenkopf Athletic Center, hours after an MRI and a meeting with a knee specialist confirmed the severity of his injury.
"You always have to stay positive. I want to stay positive for myself, stay positive for my family and even more, stay positive for my teammates. I don't want them thinking ... it's a different thought process. I feel like if they see I'm doing all right, then they can just play and not think this is such a bad thing, thinking, 'It's bad we lost him, but we can still go play.'"
Classmate Alex Magee, a defensive lineman, said that's what the Boilermakers intend to do.
"It's a downer for the team," Magee said, "but even though it's a bad thing, hopefully we can use it for good. Every day we go out here ... we're going to keep him in mind."
Joe Tiller's not been one to change his philosophies on the fly, but in the case of Taylor - clearly one of his favorite players, perhaps during his entire 12-year run at Purdue if not ever - he might be willing to change one of his long-standing rules in this, his final season.
"I like the heck out of the guy," Tiller said after Tuesday's practice. "I might actually make an exception to my rule that if you're hurt, you don't travel (to road games). He might travel with us, at least to some of the games."
While Taylor is heartened knowing he'll have a second go-around at a senior season in 2009, it's no worry of his that his future after Purdue will now be put on hold.
"I was looking ahead already to what things were going to be like after graduation, but all this does is set that back a year," said Taylor, who's on pace to graduate in the spring. "Nothing that would have happened after this year is going to change next year."
Taylor will be both seen and heard by his teammates, especially fellow running back Kory Sheets, Taylor's "co-starter" in the backfield.
Sheets joked Monday that he'll be motivated to do well this season, "so I don't have to hear (Taylor's) mouth."
"Kory's going to have a great year this year," Taylor said, Sheets within earshot. "He's going to go out and play even harder, because we push each other. He's going to know I'm not there (on the field) to push him ... he's going to go out and help the team be very successful."
"He will have to answer to me if he's messing up or I don't feel he's playing to his capabilities," Taylor quipped. "The whole team will hear me, except for at away games."
Taylor didn't know what Tiller had said minutes earlier about him possibly traveling to road games.
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