On Jan. 13, 1991, dual-sport athletic icon Bo Jackson of the Los Angeles Raiders dislocated his hip in a divisional playoff game against the Cincinnati Bengals. While Jackson went on to play baseball professionally after the injury, he never played another down in the NFL.
The day is one that many sports fans can’t forget.
Three days later on Jan. 16, there was another day that two people will never forget. For Ron and Jo Taylor, that’s date of the birth of their daughter, Dara Taylor.
During Jackson’s prime, Nike adapted a slogan called “Bo knows…” as Jackson was a multi-sport athlete.
The same could be said for Taylor.
Dara knows sports
Taylor was raised in a household that adored sports and as soon as she was born, she followed in her family’s footsteps.
“From birth, I remember being really small, and me, my younger brother and my dad would play tackle football in their rooms on the bed,” Taylor said with a laugh as she recalled the memory.
That was just the beginning.
The 5-foot-8 point guard soon started to race all the boys in her neighborhood. They didn’t stand a chance.
By the time she was four, Taylor found her first love — gymnastics — and she excelled. She said she could do 20 flips in a row and her routine was full of energy, as it was set to the Mortal Combat theme song.
When Taylor and her family moved from New Jersey to Wilmington, Del. when she was eight, that’s when she went separate ways with her first love.
In a new setting, Taylor did not have the same passion for gymnastics as she once had. She then began to try out other sports.
Most of the time, she had success.
She was a versatile softball player.
She was a quarterback for her tackle football league in seventh grade, throwing the ball further than any other boy did on the field.
She placed third in the high jump in the Delaware High School Track and Field State Championships her senior year.
But the sport she is most famous for she found last.
Dara knows basketball
At the age of 11, Taylor found a new love in her life — basketball.
And not too long after, a basketball rivalry manifested itself between Taylor and younger brother, Ron Jr.
“We would turn the garage light on and go 1-on-1 all night long, especially in the summer,” Taylor said. “We used to have battles out there. It helped me to work on confidence, 1-on-1 moves, just anything like that.”
The Caravel Academy alumnua took her game to AAU ball for the Philadelphia Belles where she first met current teammate, Maggie Lucas.
The two developed an instant friendship. Calling themselves the “true two” and wearing “thick headbands,” the duo was dominating on the basketball court.
After a summer full of AAU ball before junior year of high school, her AAU coach Brian Creech called Taylor to tell her Maryland had serious interest in her.
Taylor grew up loving the play of the Atlantic Coastal Conference. While she’s not a Duke fan, she idolized Blue Devil All-American Lindsey Harding. Not surprisingly, it was a dream of Taylor’s to play in the ACC.
And following a few visits, Taylor pulled the trigger, and committed to Maryland over Penn State, Notre Dame, Delaware, Stanford and Florida.
Dara knows Maryland
When the McDonald’s High School All-American first arrived at Maryland, it seemed like a match made in heaven.
In her first year, Taylor thrived. She totaled a new Maryland all-time freshman best with 171 assists, averaged 26.9 minutes a game and tallied 5.5 points a game.
But there was one statistic that was her Achilles’ heel — turnovers.
She totaled 147 turnovers, and by the time her sophomore season came around, her role greatly diminished, as she saw her minutes nearly cut in half to 13.7 a game.
Her role changed, which she at first said she was fine with. Taylor would frequently enter into games to lock down opponents’ best players.
“I fully took on the job of being an energy player,” Taylor said.
She said she soon focused primarily on defense, knowing that it was her only way to get out on the court. While she embraced the responsibility, Taylor admitted it was an extremely tough season.
“Part of it was not understanding what was happening and not agreeing with it. Those are the emotions that come with not playing,” Taylor said.
“When I started to realize that role may be one that I was going to have for the rest of my career, I knew confidently that I could provide more to a team. That’s when I had to start to realize that maybe this might not be the fit that I am looking for.”
Taylor then opened up her mind to transferring after the 2010-11 season.
Maryland declined to comment on this story.
Dara knows the transfer
In a few months following her decision to transfer, Taylor said she matured more than ever before.
“It's kind of tough being an 18-, 19-year-old kid and going into your head coach’s office and saying 'I'm not happy here, I don't want to be here anymore,’ ” Taylor said. “I kind of had to grow up pretty fast. You have to go talk and back up your point and your decision. I had to be prepared and had to be mature. It was a tough thing to do, but it worked out.”
It worked out for head coach Coquese Washington, too.
Washington said that she originally recruited Taylor heavily out of high school, but unfortunately for her Lady Lions, she chose Maryland.
When Taylor called asking about the possibility of a transfer, Washington, who said she never saw Taylor play at Maryland, called it a “no-brainer.”
“I really wanted to coach her,” the sixth-year coach said. “Coming out of high school, I thought, the way we played, our style and her skill set would be a great marriage.”
Taylor also expressed interest in Iowa State, and before officially announcing her transfer to Penn State, she called up a former teammate, Maggie Lucas.
Lucas and Taylor both said the conversation consisted on how great it would be to play together again, “rekindling the flame” out on the court.
If there was any doubt in Taylor’s mind about Penn State, it left with that phone conversation.
“In the long run it helped to know that I would have somebody here that I knew and played with before,” Taylor said.
Dara knows the transition
The waiting room.
A lot of adjectives can describe the place of time wasting, magazine reading and babies crying. It’s a nightmare to most people.
For Taylor, the transfer process can be described as any waiting room, especially her second year at Maryland where she spent much of it on the bench waiting to get in the game.
When she finally transferred, it was like being held in the patient room, waiting for the doctor, as, per NCAA rules, Taylor had to sit out one year.
“As a player, you just want to contribute, to get out there and help and half the time, I can't even be at the games,” Taylor said. “I would have to listen to it on the radio or watch it on TV.”
Instead of playing, Taylor soon found herself relearning the game. As teammate Alex Bentley described it, Taylor saw the game through a coach’s perspective.
“It gave me a chance to sit back and learn and get comfortable with my teammates, the style of play and everything the coaches expected, so it was a nice chance to learn,” Taylor said.
Assistant coach Fred Chmiel said that it wasn’t just learning the X’s and O’s of offense and defense that Taylor was learning, it was new personalities, new faces and a new style of play in the Big Ten compared to the ACC.
When the tough times came, she leaned on another teammate, who transferred from Boston College, Mia Nickson.
“I just told her, her time is coming, just learn all you can in practice, learn about the Big Ten,” Nickson said.
Taylor said that her year off also allowed her to rebuild her confidence after coming from Maryland. She added that no one helped rebuild it better than Washington.
“There would be times in practice or watching film from games I wasn't even playing, just sitting on the sidelines and she was like, ‘Oh, you would have made that play there, or this is how I see you working here,’ ” Taylor said. “For her to be able to do that and not even have seen me really play in two years is really amazing.”
Altogether, Chmiel said that he saw Taylor matured through her year off.
“I think it gives her a sense of hunger,” Chmiel said. “You don't take it for granted because you can always be watching the game instead of playing. It's made her a little bit stronger, more determined and see the game in a different way.”
Dara knows …
Now Taylor finds herself averaging 25.7 minutes a game, tallying 7.2 points per game for the seventh-best team in the country.
Two years removed from Maryland, she said she’s still guilty of looking at the Terrapins’ box scores and highlights.
“I definitely think if we had the chance to see them in the Big Ten/ACC challenge or the tournament this year, it would be a little incentive just to prove myself and just be able to play my game,” Taylor said. “Just to prove to myself and also them that this is the type of player that I am and how I can contribute.”
What she can contribute is a versatility of skills, Washington said, who added that Taylor has come “lightyears” in improving her game.
“Whether it's a sprinter's stance or she can do a somersault, I think it all adds to her game, it's part of her excitement,” Chmiel said.
But what Taylor knows moving forward, is up to Taylor.
Bentley said that she sees Taylor playing in the WNBA, but right now Taylor said she’s only concerned about improving in all aspects.
Who knows, maybe she will internalize her own Bo Jackson after school.
Chmiel wouldn’t doubt it.
“The sky's the limit with that athleticism and that talent level,” the assistant coach said. “She can probably do whatever she wants to do if she puts her mind to it.”