Newport Coast, Calif. That's not the first city that comes to mind when you think of a possible hometown for a USC running back.
A title like that brings to mind legends, such as Reggie Bush, Charles White and Marcus Allen. The list is scattered with greats from all over the country. While the thought of a Newport Coast-bred USC running back seems ridiculous, Taylor Ross has other thoughts.
He has the look of a Newport local, with the blond hair and blue eyes, but that look doesn't match his mental fortitude and style of play. He is an animal, with a competitive nature that could match even the "Black Mamba," the nickname used by another Newport resident, Kobe Bryant.
It's not just football, lacrosse or soccer. Anything he does he wants to win, whether it's a friendly game of "NBA 2k" on Xbox, or even a game of H.O.R.S.E. in the backyard, just to kill time before a friend arrives.
He just won't accept defeat.
Just this summer, at a Sage Hill alumni touch football game, ex-Sage lightning running back, Eric Cheng, also known as the lightening to Taylor's thunder in their duo from 2011, started to get on Taylor, saying he has always been the faster player.
The two lined up for a 40-yard sprint. While a close race, Cheng ended up edging him, but as soon as they stopped to catch a breath, Ross stood straight up.
"Again," he said firmly.
So they lined up to race, Cheng got him the second time as well.
Ross wouldn't let up; they raced four times before he finally won, resulting in an exhausted Cheng, lying on the turf gasping for air. For Ross's best friends, this is a normal occurrence; the kid will just not accept defeat.
A little over a year ago, Ross was faced with a more serious challenge than a race against his former counterpart; he snapped a bone in his foot during a conditioning drill at USC summer camp, just as he was starting to crack into the depth chart.
Unfair was the only word that came to my mind when he broke the news to me. How could this kid, who has been the biggest underdog on the Trojan roster since he chose turn down offers from lesser schools, such as Rice and Southern Methodist University, to attend the school as a walk-on in 2011, get dealt such an injury at such a crucial time?
But he took on the challenge and in half of the predicted recovery time returned to the field in his No. 47 practice jersey by mid-season, giving hell to the starters through his scout team roll. He excelled in the off-season, catching the eyes of coaches with his excellent physical testing results (including the highest vertical jump of all running backs).
Entering spring camp, it looked like he finally had a shot to make it on the field as a special-teams player, but God had other plans. The same bone, in the same foot, snapped again on Day One of spring camp. A broken foot twice now, but Ross refused to give in.
When Ross sent the news to our messaging group, the sympathy poured in but he replied with four simple words: "I will be back."
Quitting isn't in Ross's vocabulary. So, after recovering from the second bone break in his foot, he found himself covered at the bottom at the depth chart, but if you have learned anything about Ross so far, it's that a silly depth chart couldn't discourage him.
A couple months after the injury, I found myself walking the halls of the brand new John McKay Center at USC, and as I pulled up the special teams depth chart on the wall, I was at loss for words as I saw his name back in the mix.
A week away from the season opener and my best friend was preparing to make his first trip on the Trojan traveling squad. The surprises didn't stop there. On game day last Thursday, the coaches honored Ross with the role of captain for his outstanding performance on the scout team.
The truth is, we shouldn't be surprised. This is a young man who has been fixated on one goal for three years; he has put in the work while keeping his head down and doing everything he has been asked and more. It's about time some pay-off has came his way.
Ross is a sophomore eligibility-wise, leaving his path as a USC Trojan only half traveled to this point. He still has a couple more years to accomplish that goal of making a difference on game day for the Trojans, but I have a feeling he won't need more than a couple weeks.
So join myself and they rest of Taylor's closest friends, as die hard Taylor Ross fans, and cheer him on this season. He is more than just a hero to Newport and a legend at Sage Hill; he is someone who can teach us all a little bit about determination and overcoming adversity.
RANDALL MYCORN is a former Sage Hill High School quarterback and defensive back. He lives in Newport Beach.