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In a sense, Connor Taylor started Thursday exactly the same as he would have under any circumstance. He woke up and consumed his normal breakfast of plenty of eggs and toast.
Afterward, the former Louisiana Tech linebacker then left to get his next training session in with his trainer, Kenneth Wright, along with a handful of his former Bulldog teammates at Ruston High School early that afternoon.
The more sobering reality: Thursday was supposed to be Taylor’s shot at working out in front of NFL scouts at Tech for its annual Pro Day at Joe Aillet Stadium, the place he’s called home the last two years.
Just a couple of weeks ago, Pro Day was rightfully canceled due to the growing health threat of the rapidly spreading of COVID-19, or coronavirus, that has stopped the sports world in its tracks.
“That’s what’s so crazy; it was right there for us,” Taylor said. “It was too easy. We knew we were going to have a big showing. There were going to be about 18 of us there and we were set for a sweet Pro Day.
“You can sit here and be like, ‘We didn’t get a Pro Day.’ But that’s not the way I’m choosing to look at it.”
Aaron Roberson has been making the drive every day for the past two weeks from his hometown Shreveport to Ruston to work out.
Every day before heading eastbound on Interstate 20 or after returning home from his training session, the former Tech cornerback gets push-up and sit-up reps in his bedroom as well as getting in field sprints at Southwood High School at some point most days.
To defeat uncertainty of what’s going to happen next while continuing to pursue his dream of playing in the NFL, it’s called for creativity in piecing everything together from Roberson.
“I don’t know what to expect, I’m just playing everything by ear,” said Roberson, a Huntington High graduate. “There’s only so much you can do personally. I know that I can perform at the next level, it’s just getting that opportunity to get my foot in the door. Everybody wants that opportunity. I’m taking a humble and positive approach to the whole situation. I could get down on myself but this is out of everyone’s control. It can get depressing and break you down if you let it.
“It that doesn’t happen, I feel like I’ve accomplished a lot, being a college graduate. But I still have hope.”
Maintaining hope hasn’t admittedly been the easiest for former Louisiana Tech defensive tackle Courtney Wallace. To get ready for Pro Day, the Monroe native and Neville alum, took off the Dallas to train with Noel Scarlett.
He spent weeks there before being forced to come back home to Monroe after the training facility was closed due to health safety reasons because of the coronavirus. This week, what was supposed to be week he showcased his ability in front of numerous scouts, he’s had to hunt for places to continue working out, going anywhere from Louisiana Tech to some local high school tracks to run.
“It is a test of faith,” Wallace said. “If you have a faith like mine that’s strong in God, you relate everything back to him. He’s taking me through this to see how bad I want it. Only the strong survive. Out of this situation, we’ll see who has the will and want to.
“You think back to watching the NFL Combine. You get motivated by watching the Combine guys in the same position as you and you know you can compete with them by what they put on the board. I try to be better than the guy next to me. It’s a mental game and a different challenge that most of us have never faced before. So you don’t look at the negative, there are a lot of positives to look at as well.”
For Roberson and Taylor, one big positive since the revelation of no Pro Day has been the solidarity and solace from taking the field — with a safe distance between — with a few of their former teammates.
Other Bulldog seniors cornerback Michael Sam, linebacker James Jackson, defensive lineman Ka’Derrion Mason and safety Darryl Lewis, provide an outlet for frustration but more importantly motivation as they’re all navigating the uncharted situation together.
“I could be depressed in my house. It helps having guys like Mike Sam with me; it helps having teammates with me,” Taylor said. “I wouldn’t be pushing myself as hard as I have been. The big advantage for us is we came in knowing how (Louisiana Tech strength and conditioning coach Kurt) Hester was going to coach us. We knew the guy next to us was going to work and we just clicked so smooth. We know how to push each other and get each other going. It’s been fun training for that one last time.
“It’s an everyday thing, but it’s been like that a lot of times in my life.”
For now, each of the former Tech players just keep their heads down and continue to work. For guys like Taylor, Wallace and Roberson who believe their senior seasons — Taylor paced the Bulldogs’ defense in tackles with 75 and Wallace pieced together a banner career year — and final collegiate performances in the 14-0 shutout over Miami in the Independence Bowl in Shreveport — Roberson had a career outing with an interception and two pass breakups — had prepared them for Pro Day.
“I was ready for Pro Day, literally ready for Pro Day. Then working out in Dallas got me good,” Wallace said. “I know I was going to shock some people. I was looking forward to it. God must got something for me.
“It hurts you can’t prove yourself live at action at Pro Day. I’m just taking it day by day. Nobody has the answer, you just keep working and pushing. Nobody knows what’s next.”
That’s the reality for those trying to make their way on draft boards or at least into the minds of NFL scouts and executives through a global pandemic, everything is up in the air.
It’s also been a learning experience for the players as well. And whatever comes out on the other side of it for them, they’ve gained a greater perspective.
“Cherish everybody, everything. You never know when things can get taken away,” Roberson said. “Some people can’t go outside. We can take a walk, go to store but there are some who can’t. I’ve learned not take anything for granted and cherish everything.
“This virus has taken everything from some. People have lost their jobs and they can’t afford to pay their bills. This whole situation has taught me not to take anything for granted.”