“Phenomenal young men.”
That is how Defensive Coordinator Jared Boddie describes seniors De’Ariss Hope and Darien (also known as DT) Taylor. Many students know them as prominent players on the Trojans football team, and every Saturday, they could watch Hope wreaking havoc on the defensive line and Taylor returning kicks and sprinting out of the backfield.
From the 2019 season to now, the two have become true leaders in the Trojans locker room.
Head Coach Aaron Mingo described them as “selfless…great teammates…intentional in practice and film study…both of these guys poured their heart into TU Football and made the program and players around them better.”
Darien Taylor is versatile, a jack-of-all-trades straight from Notre Dame’s heart in South Bend. Like an old-school football player from the 1950s, Taylor’s effectiveness was on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball.
Riley High School was where he switched from carrying the football to tackling the ones who held it, but when entering his final season for the Trojans, he returned to his roots on the offense.
“When I got to high school, for some reason, I just had this switch…I (wanted) to hit people,” he said. “While being here, I missed having the ball in my hands and being a playmaker, so I decided to make that move.”
This year, the former linebacker moved to tight end, then became a running back while also giving his best Devin Hester impression as the team’s primary kickoff returner.
“He was willing to do anything to help the team,” Coach Boddie said. “His willingness to…help the team is something that I will talk about as long as I am coaching.”
Even while dealing with a hamstring injury that hampered him last season, Taylor pushed through. If he couldn’t be at 100% physically for the team, he would give 110% for his teammates.
“I did my best as far as trying to be mentally there for the team and being a good teammate…especially to the ones that are coming next,” Taylor said
De’Ariss Hope, meanwhile, found his calling on defense. Despite playing only on the offensive line during his senior season at Walnut Hills High School in Cincinnati, he was moved to the defensive line at Taylor, where he feels the most natural.
This year, he notched career highs in sacks and tackles for loss despite dealing with a tweaked MCL. But even with his statistical improvement, his biggest takeaways were the lessons he learned throughout his career and his final season.
“It was special,” Hope said. “It’s my last chance to play football again…hard work. Courage. Teamwork. (Football) has taught me so many things and being able to fully put it to use…put everything that I’ve learned from the game for one last season, it was…like a fermata.”
Coach Boddie and Coach Mingo affirmed Hope’s hard work. “(Hope) always played hard and pushed himself, but…found out that there was another level that he could reach with his ability and intensity” and “finished his career by playing his best football,” they said.
Coach Boddie still remembers one of his first interactions with Hope, “There were a couple of plays of him being lazy (in the 2019-20 season), and I called him out on it before developing a relationship with him…I’ll never forget him coming up to me after that meeting and thanking me…I was blown away with his hunger to want to be better.”
Taylor and Hope embody everything Taylor University strives to create in their students. They became servant leaders that gave everything at every moment.
“Both guys lead in different ways, but they are both willing to be vocal, which takes courage. Both guys work hard in all aspects of their lives and as a result they have influenced those around them to do the same. Their impact in the locker room will be missed,” Coach Boddie said.
It’s not a coincidence that Hope and Taylor are now as thick as thieves. If their work ethic, their competitive prowess, and their love of film weren’t enough to keep them together, the friendship they have created is inseparable.
Taylor described his relationship with his Bergwall roommate as “a brother bond…we talk to each other about stuff that’s way beyond football like life, film, just being black…really amazing topics and how we want to inspire people.”
They met during their first week of spring training and Hope laughed as he remembered the moment he talked to Taylor for the first time saying, “I’ll be honest, he was one of the only other black guys there…coming to Upland, Indiana was a culture shock for the both of us, so I came up to him (and said) ‘hey, we should stick together…create a bond now,’ and look at us now! We’re partners in crime!”
“I believe both guys will find tremendous success in whatever God calls them to do, but most importantly I believe both guys will live lives of kingdom impact. I am so thankful for who they are.” said Coach Mingo.
“I have no doubt (they) will be successful with whatever plan that God has for their lives,” Coach Boddie said. “I look forward to the day when I’ll be able to tell people that I had the opportunity to coach them.
As they transition from being on the field to soon working in the field, Hope and Taylor’s drive is sure to keep them in the spotlight, even if they aren’t under the floodlights of Turner Field.