Levi Taylor didn’t hesitate when asked what turned his life around in eighth grade.
“Having my daughter,” the Lewis and Clark three-sport senior said.
His daughter, Maliyah, turns 4 next month.
LC coaches knew about Taylor when he was in middle school. They knew he had been in and out of trouble and had a difficult home life. They knew he had unlimited athletic potential, too. But they didn’t know if he’d have the opportunity to realize the potential in high school.
“When he was an eighth-grader we were pretty sure he wasn’t going to make it here,” LC boys basketball coach Jeff Norton said.
Taylor never tried to hide the fact that he was going to be a father. Instead he embraced it. Frequently Maliyah, who lives with her mother, attends her father’s athletic events. And occasionally doting dad totes her around school with him.
“She means more than the world to me,” he said.
In a day of specialization, Levi Taylor is a rare and refreshing student athlete. Taylor’s three sports – football, basketball and track – are what have kept him on the straight and narrow in high school.
“Kids should try to play as many sports as they can because it’s a way to learn life lessons,” he said.
Taylor’s also a unique breed in another way – he’s a first-team all-Greater Spokane League selection this year in all three sports.
His coaches will tell you he could go on and excel in any of the three sports in college.
“He might be the best athlete we’ve had around here,” Norton said. “I’d challenge anybody to come up with another name that’s done what he’s done.”
Taylor, who will graduate with a 3.3 grade-point average, will be the first in his family to go to college. He has signed a letter of intent to play football at Central Washington University.
“The first thing people need to know about Levi is he’s very energetic and a very caring person,” football coach Dave Hughes said. “He’s a natural leader, too. You see it on the football field and in the hallways at LC.”
To say things haven’t come easy in life for Taylor is an understatement. He stopped short of saying he’s lived in abject poverty.
“I wouldn’t say we’ve been dirt poor, but very financially challenged,” he said. “We can’t get what we want without planning for it a month out.”
His mother died in January.
“It’s the toughest thing I’ve had to face in life,” he said.
His friends, particularly his coaches, helped him during the difficult time.
“Knowing that she wouldn’t want me to give up really helped,” he said.
What impresses Norton about Taylor is he’s not afraid to admit he makes mistakes.
“He’s a very, very genuine kid,” Norton said. “I’ve lost track of the number of times he’s come into my office and cried.
“He’s physically gifted, obviously. But that’s not why I love him so much. The spirit and the character that he has is what I love about him.”
Taylor placed fourth at state last year in the javelin and triple jump. He should challenge for state titles in both next week.
“He’s got a hidden perseverance that not many people see,” track coach Chase Rhodes said. “What I get from him is his spark for life. He’s been dealt some pretty tough cards. But I haven’t met anybody with his great attitude who is as positive as him.”