WINTER GARDEN — With championship blood running through his veins, a combination of the prototypical size, speed and tenacity common in high-level college football and the film that backs it all up, it’s no wonder West Orange High football’s Ivan Taylor had his choice of schools to play college ball.
Among the sea of offers that included Alabama, Florida, Ole Miss, Penn State, UCF and others, Taylor narrowed his options to seven: FSU, Louisville, Notre Dame, Michigan, Tennessee, USC and Wisconsin.
On Friday, Dec. 1, at the West Orange gymnasium, he announced his decision: Taylor chose to commit his football future to Notre Dame.
Why did Taylor choose Notre Dame?
The common considerations college football recruits usually point to when announcing their commitment decisions are playing time, facilities, coaches, the team’s recent success, the school’s history and, more recently, the money that can come from the always-controversial name, image and likeness endorsements.
For Taylor, though, the choice was predominantly based on one thing: The relationships he’d been able to develop with the Fighting Irish coaching staff.
“I picked Notre Dame because of the communication with the coaches, hands down,” he said. “It feels like every day, they text me or call. It’s like nonstop ever since I went to their Irish Invasion camp during the summer, and I played well.
“Since I went there, coach (Chris) O’Leary, the safeties coach, and I started off in a good spot,” Taylor said. “We talked a lot about things like what I can get back better at and really just little things like that. I think my experience with them really changed my opinion on the way I look at schools. (O’Leary) talks to me every day, and it’s not even always about football. I called him recently, and he was at the grocery store. … I think our relationship feels like the relationship I have with my coach now at West Orange (Geno Thompson). When it came down to making this decision, just seeing the bond I had with the coaches was the biggest factor.”
Another aspect that went into Taylor’s decision was his faith and the guidance from his mom, Danielle Taylor.
“My mom has definitely had a great impact on me and this decision,” he said. “Obviously, my dad taught me so much about football, what I needed to do, my work ethic and a ton more. But my mom taught me so much about how to treat people, my manners, just everything, especially my faith. I’m Catholic, so I’m big on my faith, and I feel like my mom also really helped me use that in this decision.
“She told me to go with my gut and pray about it, just make sure I know what I want and ask God,” Taylor said. “My mom has been huge on that. And with the decision, she honestly let me do me and kept telling me to just pray about it, and when I felt something, when I felt a sign, it’s probably God talking to me.”
Although Taylor’s faith was part of his decision-making process, Notre Dame being a Catholic school was just a bonus.
“It being a Catholic school was a part of it, but I honestly wasn’t even looking at it like that,” Taylor said. “To me, wherever I was going to go, I was going to go to church on Sundays and focus on my faith … but I do feel like it’s kind of cool and is a plus for me to be in that environment.”
What kind of player is Notre Dame getting?
For the Fighting Irish faithful wondering what Taylor will bring to the program come the fall of 2026, here’s what he had to say.
“They’re definitely going to get a hard worker,” Taylor said. “I think out of everything I do well, I feel like my work ethic is what really separates me. … I think that’s the biggest thing for me. I feel like I’m very aggressive and instinctive on the field as well. So, I think just going in there, I’m going to give 110%. I’m not going there to mess around, I’m going there for business.”
Aggressive and instinctive is right on the money for the 6-foot, 174-pound four-star defensive back. You also could add speed, ball skills, high-level high school football experience and what looks like a genuine enjoyment of knocking the opposition off its feet.
The son of former NFL player Ike Taylor — a two-time Super Bowl champion with the Pittsburgh Steelers — is currently the 62nd-ranked prospect in the nation and the ninth-ranked prospect in Florida, according to the 247Sports Composite for the Class of 2025.
He has made an impact in Florida’s highest classification since his freshman season for the Warriors. This past season, on a young West Orange team, Taylor racked up 50 tackles, six of which were for a loss, forced three fumbles and caught one interception.
Last season — his first as a starter — Taylor recorded 65 tackles, 5.5 of which were TFLs, caught three interceptions and broke up eight passes.
What the tape shows is a plus athlete with a good combination of size and speed. In the passing game, Taylor plays predominantly in a two-high safety system and has shown the ability to force turnovers with good ball skills, make the correct reads and has the athletic ability to get to the play and be a factor.
In the running game, Taylor shows an incredible willingness to get dirty and make tackles, he especially excels in the open field. His size/speed combo and body frame are more than enough to project that in a college-level strength and conditioning program he’ll be even more physically dominant.
According to Taylor, and given his skillset and tape this makes a ton of sense, the Notre Dame staff has spoken to him about playing as a slot cornerback.
“When we’ve talked on how I would fit into the system, they’ve said the nickel position is the position,” he said. “To me, I’m perfectly fine with that; I feel very comfortable there. Throughout the season in practice, I’ve been playing a lot man-to-man in the slot, playing with depth in the slot to get used to it. And I feel like that spot is one where you have to roam and have high football I.Q. at the next level, so for them to think of me in that spot says a lot about what they think about me as a player.”
Before Fighting Irish fans get excited about the prospect of Taylor roaming the defensive backfield at Notre Dame Stadium, the now-junior still has one more season as part of the über-talented West Orange secondary.
Along with Taylor, the Warriors’ are returning Devin Jackson, who recently picked up an offer from UCF, Donovan Lanier; who recently received an offer from FAU; and Artavius Riley Jr., a first-team All-Orange Observer selection.
Sam Albuquerque is the Sports Editor for the Orange Observer, please contact him with scores, statistics and story ideas at this email: [email protected] or on Twitter at @SamBAlbuquerque
A native of João Pessoa, Brazil, Sam Albuquerque moved in 1997 to Central Florida as a kid. After earning a communications degree in 2016 from the University of Central Florida, he started his career covering sports as a producer for a local radio station, ESPN 580 Orlando. He went on to earn a master’s degree in editorial journalism from Northwestern University, before moving to South Carolina to cover local sports for the USA Today Network’s Spartanburg Herald-Journal. When he’s not working, you can find him spending time with his lovely wife, Sarah, newborn son, Noah, and dog named Skulí.