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Giants draftee Cooper Taylor fulfills tall order after heart troubles

Giants safety Cooper Taylor jogs off the field

Giants safety Cooper Taylor jogs off the field at the end of rookie camp practice at the Timex Performance Center. (May 11, 2013) Credit: Newsday / Joe Epstein

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Cooper Taylor has the height of a quarterback and the build of a tight end, but the agility -- and the playbook -- of a safety.

He also has the heart of a champion . . . and not in the overused cliché sense.

While at Georgia Tech in September of 2009, Taylor began experiencing an abnormally accelerated heart rate while playing in a game against Miami. He was diagnosed with Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome, which according to WebMD, causes problems with the heart's rhythm because of an abnormal extra electrical pathway that links the upper and lower chambers of the heart.

"Whenever a doctor comes up and says 'heart,' you definitely don't think it can ever be a good thing," Cooper said Saturday at the Timex Performance Center during Giants rookie mini camp. "When I got off the field, I thought that was the end of my career athletically."

Taylor had a lengthy corrective procedure and made a full recovery, returning to the field sparingly in 2010 before transferring to the University of Richmond.

"It was a relief and an amazing weight off my shoulders to have one of the few heart conditions that you can fix and come back without any medication or any residual effects," he said. "In terms of a heart condition, I got really lucky."

At 6-4 and 228 pounds, the Giants' fifth round pick doesn't have the look of a prototypical safety. By comparison, Taylor towers over both projected Giants' starting safeties, the 6-foot Antrel Rolle and 5-11 Stevie Brown. But his quickness isn't compromised by his height, making for an intriguing blend of size and speed that could be beneficial in a league becoming increasingly populated by athletic, pass-catching tight ends.

"In today's offenses, tight ends are going to run and catch, line up in the slot, line up in the outside," Taylor said. "Sometimes they can use their bodies to out-position smaller defensive backs. I think with my height and size I can use my strength and leverage to not get out-positioned and go up and compete for the ball with these guys."

Safeties will be at a premium in the NFC East as defenses look to combat Chip Kelly's relentless up-tempo, spread offense in Philadelphia, and Robert Griffin III's explosive read-option in Washington. With the departure of Kenny Phillips, who signed with the Eagles, opportunity may present itself for Taylor, whether it's in the Giants' three-safety package or on special teams. "You hope with his height, weight and speed that it would translate and should," Giants special teams coordinator Tom Quinn said. "It will be interesting to see how he progresses throughout the short stuff and then we'll get the pads on in training camp."

It's that combination of height, weight and speed that often leave some wondering exactly which position Taylor plays. "But once I get out on the field and they see me run a little bit," he said, "I think they see me as a safety."

Taylor once thought his athletic career ended on a field in Miami as his heart raced. Now he's hoping to show that it has only just begun.

"This is only the beginning of an NFL journey," Taylor said. "But to put on this helmet and get out on that field kind of confirmed that I got to this level through hard work even despite the adversity I went through. To be out there is the completion of a dream."

Moves: The Giants officially announced the signing of LB Aaron Curry and signed five other players from this weekend's minicamp: DT Frank Okam and TE Michael Palmer, both veterans, and rookies Jeremy Horne, a receiver, and defensive backs Junior Mertile and John Stevenson. To make room on the 90-man roster they waived T Levy Adcock, WR Marcus Davis, DB Buddy Jackson, LB Charles Dieuseul, DT Bobby Skinner and K Jake Rogers.

With Tom Rock

New York Sports