KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WBLT) — After securing his legacy as a team captain and one of the most productive pass rushers in Tennessee football history, Darrell Taylor took the next step of his career on Friday night. Taylor was selected in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft by the Seattle Seahawks with the No. 48 overall pick.
Taylor became the first pick of the Jeremy Pruitt era and the highest drafted Vol overall since Derek Barnett went No. 14 to the Philadelphia Eagles in 2017. The Hopewell, Virginia, native watched the draft from home where he got the life-changing call, becoming the fourth edge rusher taken when Seattle traded up to get him.
"It was everything I hoped for when they called me," Taylor said. "It was a very exciting moment I'll never forget. They just want me to come in and compete. They obviously want to put me down and rush the passer and want me to go forward. The most important thing is competing and making sure I come in and help my team win.
"Having all those games played at Tennessee, I think it just gives me an advantage having played against the best competition and some of the biggest guys in our conference and most of them got drafted in the first round. I think that gives me a great advantage in being drafted by Seattle."
Taylor racked up 19.5 career sacks, including 8.5 in 2019, which ranked second in the Southeastern Conference. The 6-foot-4, 267-pounder was a catalyst for a Vol defense that allowed only 14.4 points per contest in the final five games of the year, which was tops in the league during that stretch. He capped his career on Jan. 2 with two tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks in leading the Vols to a Gator Bowl victory over Indiana before undergoing surgery in January.
"I played through it and had I think a pretty good season," he said. "I made the decision to play in my bowl game, and that was one of the best decisions I ever made because it was the last game I got to play with my teammates and it was really cool to have that moment and win that game. Now, I am just training and getting ready to do what I do when I get to Seattle. I am excited about it and the journey I am going to take that's in front of me.
"It's exciting because they traded up to get me, so that means they must have really wanted me. I couldn't thank them enough for it. I am just ready to get to work and excited they picked me to be their pass rusher and be a part of their organization. I am just ready to show them what I got."
NFL Draft Night Vol Notables
Taylor became the 371st all-time Vol selected in the NFL Draft (includes AFL drafts).
Taylor was the seventh Tennessee player selected all-time by the Seattle Seahawks, joining Larry Seivers (1977 – fourth round), Randall Morris (1984 – 10th round), Johnie Jones (1985 – fifth round), Harlan Davis (1991 – fifth round), Steve Johnson (1999 – sixth round) and Rashad Moore (2003 – sixth round). He is the highest drafted Vol by the Seahawks.
It's the third time in four drafts that Tennessee had at least one pass rusher selected.
Through round three, Pruitt has now coached 58 NFL Draft picks as a head coach and assistant, including Taylor.
Taylor is the second-highest drafted Vol edge rusher in the last 10 years (since 2011 draft) behind only Barnett in 2017.
Taylor is the 80th Vol selected since 2000.
Taylor will be reunited in Seattle with former teammate Kahlil McKenzie, who signed a contact with the Sea Hawks in April 20th.