COVINGTON, Ga. -- The Georgia High School Association determined on Tuesday that the case regarding the eligibility of former Newton and Grayson High running back Kurt Taylor, Jr. is a closed case.
The GHSA told the Atlanta Journal Constitution that Taylor’s transfer from Newton to Grayson after his junior year — and his subsequent transfer back to Newton at the end of the football season — was, indeed legit, meaning that Grayson's 2016 state championship will remain.
“We didn’t have anything to prove otherwise,” said GHSA assistant executive director Jay Russell in an interview with the AJC. “We felt it was a bona fide move. (Grayson) produced evidence that it was.”
The case brought a lot of attention to both Newton and Grayson High Schools back in March when a Fox 5 Atlanta report stated Taylor was living in his Covington home again with his father. That fact generated doubts about whether the Taylor home in Covington was really vacant while Taylor starred for the Grayson Rams who won the Class AAAAAAA state title in 2016. Those rumblings got louder when it was confirmed that Taylor had transferred back to Newton at the end of Grayson’s football season.
But while the 5-foot-9, 200-pound four-star recruit and Michigan signee was shrouded in doubt and controversy over the last several months, Taylor and his father, Kurt Taylor, Sr., remained quietly confident that everything would be well.
“You know, it just feels good to get that whole thing off my shoulders,” Taylor said. “A lot of people were trying to bring me down about it. There was a lot of hate out there. But you know, I just kept my head up and kept working hard toward my future. But I knew everything would be fine. We worked hard for (the state championship at Grayson) and I knew that they couldn’t really take it away. I knew nothing was going to be found out. There wasn’t anything, really, to find out.”
Kurt Taylor, Sr. said doing what it took to get his son to Grayson was something he had already situated with the GHSA before the football season began.
“There were no worries on my behalf,” the elder Taylor said. “I didn’t say anything during the whole process. I kept quiet because it was best to keep quiet. People can misconstrue your words. But I knew they weren’t going to find anything, because the GHSA had us go through a process twice to clear us for making the move. People didn’t know that, but we did what we were supposed to do, and they told us that we could move back.”
One of the Taylors’ harshest critiques came from state senator Bruce Thompson who, in the original l Fox 5 Atlanta report, said that the Taylors were “mocking the system,” by making it clearly obvious that the only intent for Taylor’s transfer was for him to play football.
To that, Kurt Taylor, Sr. rebutted with strong words.
“People who are calling it mocking the system, I call them idiots, because they don’t understand the sacrifices you make as a father or a parent for your son,” Taylor, Sr. said. “That’s why people ask me if it’s a relief. No, it’s not a relief. When you do something wrong and you’re not caught, it’s a relief. But when you’re sacrificing for your kids and you know you did everything right, there is no relief. People misunderstood the bigger picture.”
That bigger picture, he says, was that he wanted to prepare his son for the big time NCAA Division I stage, and they both wanted to feel what it was like to win a championship.
The younger Taylor had already found the kind of success that lured some of college football’s blue bloods to come running. During his junior season, Taylor rushed for 1,631 yards while averaging 6.8 yards per carry and scoring 22 touchdowns. Taylor also procured his Michigan offer and commitment while still at Newton.
On a much more talented Grayson squad that featured more than a half dozen of the nation’s top recruits — many of whom also transferred in to help formulate a state title winning squad — Taylor still starred, but also had to take on a different role on a team with lots of “mouths to feed,” so to speak.
And as far as his father is concerned, it’s just what his son needed to cap off his high school career.
“Him going to Grayson High School was preparing him for the next level,” he said. “It was strategic. Playing a national schedule, being on a team where others are just as good as you and you have to put your talents aside a bit for the betterment of the team as a whole, all of that was to get him ready. We love Covington. We love Newton High, but I felt like the program wasn’t going to take him to where he wanted to be, as far as being a running back is concerned.”
That’s why Taylor, Sr. called the move a “calculated risk for both of us.”
“I could’ve lost everything,” he said. “The pressure wasn’t the media and what they had to say. The pressure was on me transferring him and trying to keep my home. The pressure was on him to prove that he could really play with guys just as good as him. And I see how he grew from it. I see how he handles himself and how he’s matured. I don’t think that would’ve happened if he didn’t leave.”
So the question begs to be answered: If Grayson was so great for Taylor, why transfer back to Newton? Why not stay there, wait out the semester and graduate without generating a bunch of speculation?
Taylor, Jr. said it was simple: Love for his community.
“I just wanted to be here with my brothers,” he said. “I wanted to graduate with the people that I love and grew up with and have been around all my life.”
“And he didn’t want to leave Covington,” Taylor’s father interjected. To which, the younger Taylor nodded vigorously in agreement.
Taylor, Sr. said he heard personally from Newton principal John Ellenberg that he, and the school, would welcome Taylor back with open arms if he decided to come back. And although Taylor, Jr. felt the love from many, he acknowledges that it hasn’t always been all love.
“It felt good to come back here,” Taylor, Jr. said. “It’s a good feeling when you’ve got everybody missing you. You know, when you’re at another school in the same region, you’re competing against each other, but you come back and you’re together. It’s always gonna be some people who will have some animosity about it. I’ve felt that, but you can’t let that get to you.”
Now both Taylors say they’re ready to put it all behind them and focus on Michigan.
“I’m looking forward to going up there and being coached by the best of the best,” Taylor, Jr. said. “I like how coach (Jim) Harbaugh does it. I’m looking forward to seeing how I can develop myself in the program and how I can contribute to the team. They’ve got the best fans in the world, and I want to be a part of that.”
Taylor, Jr. says he doesn’t regret making the move, although it hurt to leave. But he said it helped prepare him for making a much more permanent move to Ann Arbor.
“I’m gonna miss being home,” he said. “The friends and family. Everybody that I live around. That’s what I’ll miss the most. But you know, when you want to do things in life, sometimes you’ve just gotta go on.”
His dad says, however, that he’s going to make sure he his son never forgets where he comes from.
“Our home is in Covington,” Taylor, Sr. said. “It was always the plan to come back to Covington. It’s always going to be the plan to come back to Covington. If he goes to play at Michigan, goes on to the NFL, whatever the case may be, I tell him, always come back to your roots. Come back to where you’re from. Come back to the ones who were responsible for you being where you are. And for us, that’s Covington.”