Nov. 22, 2011
By Bruce Madej
"Cipa rolls out to the right and pitches off to Taylor. And Taylor is to the 20, down to the 15, down to the 10, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, touchdown Billy Taylor, touchdown Billy Taylor, Billy Taylor scored a touchdown from 21 yards out. The crowd goes berserk."
When Bob Ufer made that infamous call in 1971, Billy Taylor (1968-71) was the toast of Ann Arbor. The Wolverines had just knocked of Ohio State, 10-7. The TD came in the last two minutes and gave Michigan's its first undefeated regular season since 1948. It was the last touchdown Taylor scored as a Michigan Wolverine. It was the last time his name was announced on the Michigan Stadium PA.
This Saturday during the Michigan-Ohio State game, Billy Taylor's name will once again be broadcast on the PA system at the Big House as he returns to the Michigan spotlight during the first time out of the first quarter.
At the end of his Michigan career, Taylor's future looked very bright. He was a three-time All-American, team MVP and considered one of the greatest backs in Wolverines history. Fast forward to 2011 and Taylor's future is once again bright. Unfortunately, the years after college through 1997 were not kind for the running back born in Hoxie, Ark., and who grew up in Barberton, Ohio -- Bo Schembechler's hometown. A number of terrible events led Taylor cascading in a downward spiral. He had encounters with the law and served jail time. He became dependent on drugs and alcohol.
Today, Dr. Billy Taylor once again has a bright future. And once again, he credits the University of Michigan and Schembechler with his success. He is the President and CEO of Get Back Up, Inc., a state-of-the-art, comprehensive residential substance abuse treatment facility in Detroit.
"Michigan equipped me for my life," said Taylor. "It equipped with me tools for my life not only to survive but to be successful in my professional work and private life."
With the help of investors, Taylor purchased a school on 12305 Dexter Ave. on Aug. 2, 2007. It took almost two years, but on April 1, 2009, Get Back Up opened. Today, 51 men are living in the care facility and 10 men come twice a week for out-patient counseling.
"I started (the facility) because I felt the need to give back to the community, to help men change their lives become fathers again, tax-paying citizens again, become husbands again and make contributions," said Taylor. "I want them to become a taxpayer as opposed to tax taker because that's what happened with me."
Taylor's message is all about family -- a team. After years of personal issues, Taylor himself has rekindled his relationship with all his children and now proudly states he has a "great relationship" with all three of his boys (Louis, William III and Alden) and his daughter (Mariah Marie).
"Now, I am a father to them, and during my addiction I was not," said Taylor. "Like most men who have an addiction, they are not (good fathers), and that has to change. I am doing my small part in making a change in a lot of people's lives."
The lives he changes have to go through his building, painted in maize and blue with a Bo Schembechler Conference Room for meetings.
"The Michigan experience and especially Bo had a lot to do with my rehabilitation and now my future," adds Taylor. "It enabled me to get back up because of the lessons I learned as a student-athlete.
"I thought that if I was able to play for Bo, I could do just about everything. Any reasonable goal or plan I developed was because of my Michigan experience," added Taylor. "I firmly believe I can achieve it because at Michigan I learned about hard work, perseverance, positive attitude, believing in myself and knowing that I can achieve my goals. And moreover, that when I faced adversity, never give up."
And he faced adversity.
"I had lost all of that training and all of those experiences were set aside during my addiction," added Taylor. "I was so depressed and I was in so much pain because of the great losses that I self-medicated on alcohol and other drugs. That was the lowest time in my life."
Then he started to think about his days at Michigan and what made him successful, the life lessons he learned from Bo and other mentors at U-M. On Aug. 17, 1997, Taylor made a decision to put his life back together, giving up alcohol and drugs. He thought about two-a-day practices, how the hard work paid off.
"Once my life changed, I put my personal and professional life in a two-a-day mode," said Taylor. "It was just like double time, trying to pick up the pieces and get back on track."
He then moved to Las Vegas, working two jobs and getting his doctoral degree from UNLV.
"It is now my personal philosophy when life gets you down, get back up," says Taylor. "If you want to be successful you have to get back up because everyone gets knocked down one way or the other in life."
Taylor has written a book entitled 'Get Back Up' and is in discussions about a potential documentary or movie.
And yes, Get Back Up comes from Bo.
"He used to tell me, 'You run into the line and when you come out on the other end, you are going to get hit -- hard,'" Taylor says what Bo would tell him. "When you get hit, you have to get back up and be ready to run again. This became a natural title for my facility and natural title for my book, and it really defines my life."