It was an ugly UCLA-USC football game last night. The game was painful enough to watch—no offense for either team, blown opportunities for the Bruins, a lot of posturing minus any action—so I have no interest in blogging about the game.
But it’s worth mentioning the write up one of the Trojans’ star defenders got in The Jewish Journal earlier this month. The headline wasn’t “Funny, Taylor Mays Doesn’t Look Jewish,” but that’s probably the first thing most readers thought when they saw his photo:
A projected first-round draft pick and Jim Thorpe Award finalist, Mays is described as tough, smart, talented and a leader.
USC’s 6-foot-3, 230-pound defensive back has a love of football that can be traced back to his February 2001 football-themed bar mitzvah party.
“That party was crackin’,” said Mays, whose mother, Laurie, is Jewish.
Mays, a Seattle native, has a reputation for being one of the most devastating safeties in the NCAA, but in person he’s polite, kind and has an easy smile. Clearly driven, he’s quick to reference his close family ties and solid upbringing when discussing his goal to play pro ball — an opportunity he recently turned down in order to complete a degree at USC.
Mays attended Sunday school starting at a young age and continued with Hebrew school twice a week. Although he attended a Catholic high school, he identifies with being Jewish and cherishes the holidays he spent with his maternal grandparents. “We celebrated Chanukah, Passover and Yom Kippur always,” he said.
“I have good examples in my life, people who have worked hard and accomplished things, and made me want to work hard and accomplish things,” said Mays, whose mother is an executive vice president at Nordstrom and whose father, Stafford, is a former NFL defensive lineman turned Microsoft executive. “I’m trying to provide the right example, do things right all the time and take advantage of every opportunity I have to get better.”