By Tim Gardner
Although Appalachian State University has, and has had, many outstanding players during the time Taylor Lamb has been part of its program, the fifth-year senior quarterback and spread offense specialist may have been as valuable to the Mountaineers for much of that span as any player has to his team in college football.
But Taylor defines his role for the Mountaineers as a “Big Team; Little Me” player. “My focus is totally about our team,” he noted. “It’s not about me and I pride myself in working hard to try to help our team in every possible way. If our team is not doing well, then I don’t consider myself totally successful as it’s all about a team effort.”
His father, Bobby, played quarterback and was head coach at Furman University for nine seasons and is currently is head coach at Mercer University. Taylor’s maternal grandfather, Jim Acker, played linebacker and offensive guard at Newberry College. And Taylor’s paternal grandfather, Ray Lamb, played quarterback at Tennessee Wesleyan and later was one of the most successful high school coaches in Georgia history while at Commerce and Warren County, where he won state championships at each. Ray Lamb also later worked as the University of Georgia’s director of high school relations from 1993 to 2011. Ray’s other son, Hal, played wide receiver at West Georgia College and coached his nephew Taylor at Calhoun, GA High School. Taylor’s cousin, Ben Lamb, is currently a wide receiver at West Georgia, while Ben’s brother and another of Taylor’s cousins, Tre Lamb, played quarterback at Tennessee Tech and is the quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator for Bobby Lamb at Mercer. Also, Taylor’s uncle by marriage, Michael Davis, is Calhoun’s offensive coordinator, while Ron Duncan, Ray’s nephew and yet another of Taylor’s cousins, is head coach at Screven County, GA High. And Ray’s late brother and Taylor’s great uncle, Sammie, was a high school coach in Georgia and South Carolina.
“Football has long been such a focal part of my life,” said the 6-2, 200 pound Taylor, who is majoring in physical education and aspires to have a career in coaching after his playing days end. “There’s so many of my family involved in football, it’s sometimes hard to get it all straight when telling others who plays, has played, or who has coached, or who coaches. My mother, Allyson, my sister, Sallie, and all our relatives are avid football enthusiasts, too.
“Honestly, football is all I know. I’m very passionate about it. I love the game, and it’s been very good to me.”
Indeed, it has.
Taylor had a stellar playing career at Calhoun High. He raked in a plethora of accolades as a senior, including MaxPreps second-team small school all-American, the Gatorade Georgia Player of the Year and Associated Press First-Team All-State. In his final two seasons at Calhoun High, Taylor threw for 7,193 yards, completed 66.9 percent of his passes and racked up 76 touchdowns while throwing just 16 interceptions. He led the Yellow Jackets to the Georgia Class AA state championship as a junior in 2011, and they were state finalists again in 2012, compiling a 29-1 two-year record.
While Taylor didn’t have dozens of major-college offers during his recruiting process, he had plenty of attractive opportunities to attend college on a full football ride. Besides Appalachian State, Taylor ended up with offers from Memphis, South Alabama, Southern Miss and Chattanooga, among a few others.
“Coming out of high school, you kind of know where you stand,” said Taylor. “That’s where I stood, kind of a lower FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision) school. God has a plan and He wanted me here at Appalachian State. I love it here.”
And Taylor has prospered in mighty ways the past three-and-a-half seasons for the Mountaineers, leading them to some of their finest moments in school history while compiling sterling statistics and accomplishments of his own.
Entering the 2017 season, only Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield won more games among active Football Bowl Subdivision starting quarterbacks than Taylor, who currently has 40 straight career starts in 42 games played that is best among active FBS quarterbacks. And Taylor is rewriting an Appalachian State record book that is filled with benchmarks set by quarterback Armanti Edwards, who led the Mountaineers to three consecutive Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) national titles and a memorable 2007 upset of Michigan.
After redshirting in 2013, Taylor was the Sun Belt Conference’s freshman of the year in 2014 and set Appalachian State freshman records with 2,381 passing yards and 17 touchdowns. He then established a school record in 2015 with 31 passing touchdowns (2,387 yards) for an 11-win team. He also ripped off his career-best 78-yard run in Appalachian State’s 59-14 romp over the University of Louisiana-Monroe. In 2016, Taylor threw for 2,281 yards, 15 touchdowns and had five 200-yard passing games while leading Appalachian State to 10 wins and a share of the conference title with Arkansas State. He also rushed for 505 yards while averaging 5.7 yards per carry and scoring nine touchdowns.
Taylor has guided the Mountaineers to a 30-12 record during his playing career, including a 23-7 mark since the start of the 2015 season and consecutive victories in the Camellia Bowl in 2015-’16. He also helped Appalachian State nearly pull off a monumental upset last year at Tennessee, before falling in overtime. And in what he called his “most memorable and best game,” Taylor earned 2016 Camellia Bowl Most Valuable Player honors after he set his single game career-high in rushing yards with 126 in the 31-28 win over Toledo. He made a 13-yard touchdown run in the third quarter and threw a 16-yard touchdown pass, helping Appalachian State control the pace and steer its offense to 297 yards rushing.
With Taylor again leading the way, the Mountaineers are 2-2 so far this season (2017) and solid favorites to repeat as conference champions.
Appalachian State head coach Scott Satterfield said of his standout quarterback: “Taylor understands exactly what we’re trying to do offensively and the scope of everything. He has a unique ability to relate to the players and the coaches, which is very unique because he’s been around us for so long and around coaching for so long.
“He doesn’t have the cannon arm, but he’s very accurate, throws on time and has deceptive speed. People will look at him and say he doesn’t run that great, but he’s been a 400 to 500-plus yards rusher every year that he’s played for us and may do so again this season. And he keeps pressure on the defense with his legs, being able to run and get first downs.”
This year Taylor has completed 73 of 120 passes for 994 yards and eight touchdowns. He is averaging 248.5 passing yards per game and has not thrown any interceptions. Taylor ranks second among active FBS quarterbacks with no interceptions in his last 213 pass attempts. NC State’s Ryan Finley is first with no interceptions in his last 224 attempts.
Taylor also has run the ball for 131 yards and one touchdown.
Against Georgia in the season-opener, Taylor completed 18 of 27 passes for 128 yards and scored the Mountaineers only touchdown on a 20-yard run. He then passed for 327 yards (12 of 15) and five touchdowns to tie a school record while playing only two quarters in a 54-7 rout of Savannah State.
At Texas State, Taylor was 17 of 28 passing for 167 yards and one touchdown. He helped lead an Appalachian State rally to win (20-13) by completing several third-down passes. Then he had another superb effort versus Wake Forest, completing 26 of 50 passes for 372 yards and two touchdowns–one an 84-yard strike–the longest pass of his collegiate career. His passing yards in the Wake Forest game are the second-highest total of his career. He had 397 passing yards against Liberty as a freshman.
Taylor is second in Appalachian State history with 71 career touchdown passes, needing just 3 more to tie Edwards as the school’s career leader and four to set a new record. And Taylor (8,043) passed Richie Williams (7,759) for second place in most career passing yards by a Mountaineer quarterback this season. Edwards is the career leader with 10,392 yards.
Additionally, Taylor ranks second in school history with 9,598 yards (8,043 passing and 1,555 rushing) of total offense. He passed Williams (9,370) for second place and trails career leader Edwards (14,753).
Of course, Taylor is his father’s all-time favorite player, and Bobby Lamb heaps much praise on his son for his personal and football-playing attributes with the following remarks: “Taylor is an ideal young man who has achieved so much through his hard work to become the best team player he can. He has always been a great competitor from the time he was a young child. And he seems to always play very productive against the top competition. I get far more nervous watching him play than I do watching my own team play. He has made our family especially proud and he’s as good a person as he is an athlete.”
Ray Lamb added further fitting comments about Taylor to conclude this story. “There’s various ways I describe Taylor that reflects his strengths as a football player,” the legendary coach and grandfather said.
“Foremost, Taylor is an excellent team leader. He manages a game well and is like a coach on the field. He doesn’t make a lot of mistakes that will cost a team a loss and he is an accurate passer. But he’s hurt some opposing teams with his running as much, or more, than with his passing. I’m very proud of the young man he is. He’s got all his priorities in order in football and in life.”