Larry Taylor became conversant in Canadian during his two seasons in the CFL.
"You learn certain words in French — bonjour and merci," Taylor said this week."Everything is French up there in Montreal."
Tonight is a big night for Taylor back here in the States, not terribly far from Quebec or from his college stomping grounds at UConn. The Green & White Scrimmage is set to begin at 6 p.m. on the grass fields the Jets have been using for their training camp at SUNY Cortland, and this event is always important for players trying to hold on to their roster spots and make it to the opening-day roster a month from now.
Taylor will be one of those scratchers and clawers. He'll be returning kickoffs and perhaps punts, catching passes and maybe even getting in a running play or two.
And you can't blame him if at some point in the scrimmage he utters something in the language of love such as:
Attrapez-moi si vous pouvez.
Catch me if you can.
"I'm just flying under the radar," Taylor said. "Nobody knows who I am. I just continue to come out here every day, work hard and get better. The coaches see what I'm doing out there. It's not going unnoticed."
That is true. Wide receivers coach Henry Ellard recalled loves his work effort and versatility.
"Larry's a jack-of-all-trades," Ellard said. "At the rookie minicamp, the fact that Joe [McKnight] couldn't practice, he stepped in at running back and did a decent job for us. He's so quick and explosive. He's hard for a guy to get his hands on. And as a back, you can't see him, so he squirts out of nowhere, kind of like Leon Washington did."
And special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff, while noting the long odds against Taylor, also sees things to admire.
"You've got to like the kid. He's gutsy, works hard. He's a good little football player, but he's not small," Westhoff said. "He's strong, he's tough. I can see potential as a return guy.
"I always like to think that sometimes we can find a spot for a specialist, a cover guy that can help you in returns, covering kicks, be a multitalented guy. I firmly believe he could do that. Is he going to be able to do it? I don't know. I know one thing: I'm going to put him on all the positions and hope he can do it, and then maybe try to make the argument that he would be a special teams player, a guy like Larry Izzo on for offense, if he flashes."
The usual issue for Taylor is his 5'6", 180-pound size — he's the shortest Jet on the summer roster — and can he survive in the pro game? But Ellard mentions San Diego's Darren Sproles, who's virtually the same size, and Jacksonville's 5'8", 205-pound Maurice Jones-Drew.
"I've dealt with that all my life," Taylor said. "I'm not going to get any taller, but as you can see, I'm bigger than a lot of wide receivers because I'm pretty stocky. I have a good physique. I'm just a short guy, but I can run with the best of the guys and I'm quicker than most guys and I can catch the ball pretty well. So there's nothing I can't do when I get out there on the field."
And certainly not return kickoffs and punts. Taylor, after all, already is a decorated two-year pro returner who last year made the CFL's all-star team and was named the league's Special Teams Player of the Year. Here are his two-year stats as a returner for the Montreal Alouettes:
Need more evidence that Taylor can make a go of it as a Jet? He grew up in Belle Glade, Fla., in a different school from and a few years behind Santonio Holmes, but Taylor has learned from — indeed, has worked out with in the past — one of the game's best receivers, whom he's now teammates with.
And the other LT is also an all-weather player, toiling in the warmth of South Florida growing up and in the colder late-fall climes of Connecticut and Canada.
Yes, the odds are long. But Taylor is game.
"Once people do a little research, they'll figure out who I am. That's all it takes," he said. "It's the perfect storm behind me."