By Daniela Schneider, GoDuke.com
Wake up. Practice. School. Sleep. Do it again.
This is the life of a Duke student-athlete.
With the constant juggle between the strenuous practice schedules and rigorous academic course loads, student-athletes rarely step out of this bubble. At a school like Duke, which has one of the country’s best combinations of athletic and academic programs, this bubble is especially prevalent. But organizations such as the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), although still in the realm of athletics, work to break this barrier and give athletes a chance to be leaders and make an impact off the field for generations to come. Because of SAAC, Chris Taylor has become a leader amongst the rest, both on the field and in the conference room.
SAAC is a committee composed of student-athletes from all varsity sports. Members meet regularly to discuss policies and issues that impact the lives of student-athletes both on Duke’s campus, and on all other NCAA campuses. The goal of SAAC is to improve the quality of the Duke experience for all Blue Devil student-athletes.
Taylor, a redshirt senior, is one of Duke’s starting wide receivers and has been elected president of Duke’s branch of SAAC in each of the past two academic years. As president of SAAC, Taylor essentially works as the liaison between his committee and the NCAA as a whole, distributing the organization’s messages to all the varsity sports on campus. He works constantly to set up meetings on campus, as well as participating in monthly conference calls with presidents of other college SAAC committees.
“It has set me up for that professional side of athletics, if that’s something that I want to pursue,” Taylor said. “I think it’s a great thing to be in athletics, but not be running around sweating.”
The impact of being the SAAC president has taught Taylor a lot about what it means to be an effective leader. With having a representative from every varsity sport on the committee, Taylor has learned how to cooperate and bring together people from all different backgrounds. He has brought that skill to the field as he is one of Duke’s most experience players, and someone the team looks up to for guidance and motivation.
“Each person on the team is very different,” Taylor said. “They’re motivated differently and have different work ethics. So being the person they can come talk to or sit down with changes with each person. Whether they’re a freshman or senior, that is something I’ve learned while being SAAC president.”
Taylor’s leadership abilities have shown through his performance and improvement on the field during his career as a Blue Devil. When Taylor came to Duke in 2014, he did not see action and redshirted his first season. But each year after, Taylor made a bigger and bigger impact for the team. In the 2016 and 2017 campaigns, Taylor played in every game. He made five starts in 2016 and seven in 2017 and totaled two touchdowns during the two seasons.
After suffering a shoulder injury in January of 2018 and missing spring practice in recovery, Taylor came back for his final season stronger than ever. With three regular season games left in the slate plus a bowl tilt, Taylor has 253 receiving yards and one touchdown. His season high of 97 receiving yards along with one touchdown came in Duke’s loss against Virginia.
“We’ve built trust. We’ve built love, and what better environment to be in. He is the epitome of it,” wide receivers coach Gerad Parker said. “What he stands for as a person, and as a player, and who he will be as a future husband and father speaks for itself. He is invaluable. He is a technician, and gets better every week as a senior.”
Throughout his Duke career, Taylor also has been an exemplary figure in the classroom. The wide receiver is one of only two active players in the ACC to have 30 or more receptions and 300 or more receiving yards while also earning the Academic All-ACC accolades the past two seasons. Taylor graduated from Duke with a degree in economics in May of 2018, and is now pursuing a master’s degree in management at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business. He recently accepted a position a J.P. Morgan in New York City to start in July.
With so much to look forward to after leaving Duke, Taylor is just focused on the present moment, taking it one game at a time. His competitive fire is still burning and he wants to make the most of his final games and win as many as possible. But what Taylor will miss the most has little to do with being on the field, and everything to do with being with his team.
“As my time is winding down, I’m realizing the things I’m going to miss most about this place are the people, my teammates and the comradery,” Taylor said. “Being in the locker room after a big win or seeing teammates picking each other up after a tough loss, those are the memories I’ll forever have being here. I’m trying to live each day in the moment and cherish them because it’s coming to an end soon.”