If Tyrod Taylor had not been raised to process his emotions and encouraged to have “real conversations,” the time that he was benched by the Bills during a playoff push might have broken him.
“That weighed on my mind early on, and if my headspace wasn’t right at the time then it could’ve been perceived differently,” a reflective Taylor told The Post about that 2017 experience. “I’m a better person for it now — it was something to learn from. I’m thankful for my upbringing because every day you are faced with different challenges. Educating yourself on getting through those emotions is big.”
The Giants’ backup quarterback recently put his money where his mind is and created the Tyrod Taylor Wellness Center. Taylor’s namesake charitable foundation partnered with his native Hampton, Va., and a late anonymous donor to fund the $1.8 million first-phase renovation that transformed a previously discarded rundown area of a neighborhood Boys and Girls Club.
“The city stepping up had a lot to do with Tyrod stepping up,” said Hal Smith, CEO of the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Virginia Peninsula. “Tyrod sees a lot of the kids that come to the club are much like him growing up. No matter your economic circumstances, kids need a positive place to go and positive role models, and Tyrod is standing up and being one of them.”
The Boys and Girls Club location where Taylor, 33, and his cousins once played basketball while both his parents worked after-school hours was on the verge of closing its doors a couple years ago. But the community balked at ideas proposed if the property were sold. Word reached Taylor, who is mindful of a recent uptick in violence in the city.
The number of shooting homicides in Hampton doubled to 14 in the first quarter of 2023 compared with 2022, police told 13News Now.
“That location is walking distance from the house I grew up in, as well as my grandma’s house and the house where I was babysat,” Taylor said. “It was a meet-up spot for kids, and I had so many fun times there. I didn’t want to see it torn down. I wanted to see if there was any opportunity to uplift it.”
The end result is a Boys and Girls Club that more than doubled in size to just shy of 20,000-square feet, with the capacity to serve more than 200 children, Smith said. An important component for Taylor was that the space be used for more than playing sports, to reinforce a message he often delivers to children.
“By all means have those dreams of being the next quarterback or point guard or women’s tennis star, but understand that sports is not the only area we measure success,” Taylor said. “I want to be realistic and let them know that is not the only thing that you have to hold on to as far as a dream to elevate yourself. There are a lot of creatives in Hampton Roads.”
Taylor’s 13-year NFL career is symbolic of life’s ups and downs. He has been a Pro Bowler and a starter in the playoffs. He has been benched, traded and the alleged victim of medical malpractice. The Giants are his sixth team.
“As you continue playing, you understand that not only does your body have to be ready for a season but your mind has to be ready for a season,” Taylor said. “Mental health looks different for everyone, but everyone who’s breathing is dealing with something.
“Having those conversations within the locker room and having sports psychologists, we have the resources for that they don’t have at a young age in my hometown. We’re just trying to create a facility for those conversations and putting in practices in the inner city where a lot of those programs don’t get taught. That’s when you get a chance to learn about yourself.”
The Wellness Center is adding a fully functional commercial kitchen to foster a culinary arts program that will teach everything from healthy food preparation to working in a restaurant. Mental-health coping strategies like practicing yoga are underway, and Taylor joined the first class.
“The more I’ve learned about overall wellness, a lot of it stems from how we take care of ourselves and how we go about our daily practice, whether that’s meditation or yoga or just being mindful of your emotions,” Taylor said. “How we better the next generation is to extend ourselves to teach the youth about our personal experiences.”
Taylor was completing deep passes Thursday during the Giants’ organized team activity practice.
By the next morning, he was on a strategic-planning conference call for implementing new wellness programs.
“Tyrod is the most humble professional athlete I’ve ever met, and it comes back to the way he was raised,” Smith said. “It’s not just, ‘Give some money, throw my name on it and I might pop in every now and then.’ This is an ongoing partnership.”
Taylor brought his parents and grandmother to the March ribbon-cutting and soaked in the full-circle journey.
“I look forward to changing the lives of hopefully a lot of people, but if not then just one,” Taylor said. “It’s a wild moment for me, but I know it comes with tremendous responsibility.”