Cooper Taylor has had plenty of injuries in his football career. He broke both of his hands in his senior year at Richmond (and played through them with padded casts), nearly tore his pectoral muscle while bench pressing during summer workouts last June and missed the final three games of 2011 with a knee injury that he initially suffered in the preseason and re-aggravated in November.
None of those were career-threatening, though, which makes them pale next to the diagnosis he received in the fall of 2009 that could have been life-threatening. After trainers at Georgia Tech saw Taylor had a very high heartbeat during a game against Miami on Sept. 17 of that year, he was found to have Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome, an illness characterized by abnormal electrical pathways in the heart. He had surgery to correct the issue and missed most of two football seasons. He even wound up transferring from Georgia Tech, where his father was a quarterback in the 1980s, to Richmond.
But he did recover fully, so much so that the Giants selected him with the 152nd overall pick in the fifth round of Saturday's draft. Taylor is a very large safety (6-4, 228 pounds) with eye-popping speed and quickness who could fit in nicely with the Giants' three-safety scheme that often has a member of the secondary playing up at the line of scrimmage.
"Cooper has the physical numbers to maybe be a linebacker, to play near the line of scrimmage, to rush the passer," his Richmond coach Danny Rocco said. "But he also has the range and speed and ball skills to play in the back end. The more he's fluid and moving around, the more he can give the offense different things to worry about and deal with."
The heart procedure initially drained Taylor of about 20 pounds from his body weight and he slipped to 185. But the realigned rhythm in his heart helped slow down his metabolism and allowed him to gain weight more easily.
"I tell him it's probably a blessing that it happened because it gave him a year to mature," his father said. "He needed to get bigger and lo and behold that year off helped him. He's about 20 pounds bigger than he's ever been."
It hasn't sapped his speed, either. When he was a 185-pound freshman at Georgia Tech in 2008, he was the fastest player on the team and ran the 40-yard dash in about 4.3 seconds. At his pro day this spring, weighing 228 pounds, he posted a 4.49. He also clocked a 1.60 in the 10-yard dash, one of Tom Coughlin's favorite measuring sticks for players. Scouts praised his decisiveness and burst at the East-West Game.
"That's what I like to do, just chase the ball," Taylor said. "That's my mentality, just flying around and playing fast and physical football."