By Amber Sutherland, UTSA Athletics Communications
In the world of sports, certain athletes rise to the top not only for their skills but also for their passion, leadership and the unique journeys that brought them to the field. Donyai Taylor, a senior standout for the UTSA Roadrunners, is one such individual. His story, from childhood dreams to collegiate success, is a testament to dedication and the power of family.
"I started playing when I was about six and haven’t stopped playing since," Taylor said.
The passion for the sport that ignited in his youth led him on a remarkable path. After graduating in 2020 following a stellar prep career at Shiner High School, Taylor found himself at UTSA, where he's in his fourth season as a key contributor on defense and special teams. The transition from high school to college football can be challenging, but Taylor embraced it with open arms.
Taylor’s journey to UTSA football was closely guided by his close relationship with his older brother, Dadrian.
"My brother was here since 2017," Donyai said about Dadrian, who played five seasons for the Roadrunners, three alongside Donyai at the same position, UTSA’s “money backer” spot.
“It was really good to have my brother around because he has the experience to back me up on things and help me see things in a different way,” Donyai noted.
Taylor emphasizes how this brotherly connection allowed him to develop faster as a player and provided invaluable support throughout his career. That early development has led Taylor to where he is today, making his 10th consecutive start at linebacker with 91 career tackles, 10 tackles for loss, two pass breakups, two fumble recoveries and a pair of interceptions.
For Taylor, football isn't just a game; it's an exhilarating experience. He joyously describes the adrenaline rush that comes with stepping onto the field, a sensation that sets football apart from other sports.
"It's the best feeling when you're standing in the tunnel before you come out. Everybody's screaming, and you can hear everybody in the building. I just love to play for the team, for the fans and just for love of the game.”
The pregame adrenaline rush is one thing, but Taylor experienced another level of exhilaration last weekend in Denton, when he delivered a game-changing play in the fourth quarter, snatching a batted pass and returning the interception 78 yards to the North Texas 9-yard line.
“When you can force a turnover and give the offense a short field, I mean that’s what football’s about,” Taylor said. “It’s much easier to score.”
His enthusiasm is contagious as he expresses his profound affection for the sport.
"My favorite part about playing has probably been developing all the different relationships that last longer than football.”
Beyond the touchdowns and tackles, Taylor treasures the friendships he's forged with people from diverse backgrounds. These relationships, he believes, are a testament to the hard work he puts into the game and the dedication he maintains.In a world where individual achievements often take center stage, Taylor's perspective is refreshing.
"I want to see myself succeed and play well for the team, but I really love just seeing my teammates succeed.”
His happiness is just as intense when a teammate makes a big play as when he does.
“I just want to continue to see our team and my teammates do well on and off the field.”
Taylor's leadership within his team has not gone unnoticed by his teammates. He proudly sports a single-number jersey, a symbol of respected leadership on the field and in the locker room. He reflects on the rigorous process behind earning this honor, with teammates voting each year. Last year, Taylor and his brother set a goal to both earn single-digit jerseys, but the honor eluded him, while Dadrian was elected and wore No. 7. This season, Donyai attained his objective, earning the same number that was once worn by his older brother.
“My teammates saw in me that I was a leader who should wear the (single-digit) jersey, and I am honored that they chose me to wear it this year.”
Recognizing that effective leadership requires adjusting his approach based on the individual needs of his teammates, he emphasizes that leadership on the team is about development, about helping the team to become better and about fostering a spirit of camaraderie that extends far beyond the football field.
In the world of college football, Donyai Taylor stands out, not just for his skills on the field but for his passion, his bond with his brothers – by birth and by choice – and his commitment to team success. As he continues to shine at UTSA, his journey serves as an inspiration to aspiring athletes and a reminder that the essence of the game lies in the connections forged and the love for the sport.