2009: The hard-hitting Mays, a 2-time All-American first teamer who is a leading candidate for the Thorpe Award, returns for his fourth season as the starting free safety as a senior in 2009.
2008: Mays started for his third season at free safety as a junior in 2008 and had a highly-decorated season. Overall in 2008 while starting all 13 games, he had 53 tackles, including 2 for losses of 7 yards, and a team-high 9 deflections. He was named a 2008 consensus All-American first teamer (AP, Football Writers, Walter Camp, Sporting News, ESPN.com, SI.com, CBSSports.com, Phil Steele's, Pro Football Weekly, Collegefootballnews.com) and All-American second teamer (Rivals.com), was among 3 finalists for the 2008 Thorpe Award, made the 2008 All-Pac-10 first team and both Collegefootballnews.com and Phil Steele's All-Pac-10 first teams, and won USC's Bob Chandler Award. He had arthroscopic surgery on his ankle prior to 2008 spring practice. He was named to the 2008 Playboy Pre-Season All-American team.
He had a game-high 6 tackles (1.5 for losses) and a deflection at Virginia, added 8 stops against Ohio State and 6 tackles against both Oregon State and Oregon. He then had 2 tackles against Arizona State, 2 stops (0.5 for a loss at Washington State, 4 tackles at Arizona and 3 tackles and a deflection against Washington. He had 5 tackles and 4 deflections versus California to earn Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Week honors. He added 5 tackles at Stanford, 2 stops against Notre Dame and a tackle and deflection at UCLA. He added 4 tackles and a deflection versus Penn State.
2007: After a decorated freshman season in 2006, Mays returned for his second season as the starting free safety as a sophomore in 2007 and continued his stellar play. Overall in 2007 while starting all 13 games, he had 65 tackles (third on USC), 1 interception, 6 deflections, 1 fumble recovery and 1 forced fumble. He was named a 2007 The Sporting News All-American first team, SI.com All-American second team, AP All-American third team, Jewish Sports Review All-American, Collegefootballnews.com Sophomore All-American second team, All-Pac-10 honorable mention and Rivals.com All-Pac-10 first team pick.
He had 5 tackles versus Idaho, 6 stops and a deflection at Nebraska, 3 tackles against Washington State and 2 tackles at Washington. He added 2 tackles, 2 deflections and an interception (to set up an USC TD) against Stanford. He had 4 tackles and forced a fumble against Arizona, then had 5 stops at Notre Dame, a career-best 12 tackles at Oregon, 6 tackles against Oregon State and 10 tackles and 3 deflections (both team highs) at California. He had 4 tackles at Arizona State and 3 stops and a fumble recovery against UCLA. He had 3 tackles against Illinois.
2006: Just a first-year freshman, Mays took over the free safety job in 2006 after Josh Pinkard suffered a season-ending injury in the opener and he ended up starting USC's final 12 games. Overall in 2006 while appearing in all 13 games, he had 62 tackles, a team-best 3 interceptions that he returned 40 yards (13.3 avg.) and 3 deflections. He made the 2006 The Sporting News All-American second team, Collegefootballnews.com Defensive Freshman of the Year, The Sporting News Freshman All-American first team, Rivals.com Freshman All-American first team, Scout.com Freshman All-American first team and Rivals.com All-Pac-10 second team and was named Pac-10 Co-Freshman of the Year, The Sporting News Pac-10 Defensive Freshman of the Year and Rivals.com Pac-10 Freshman of the Year.
After getting 2 tackles at Arkansas, he had 5 tackles against Nebraska while starting for the first time at free safety. He then had 3 tackles at Arizona, 4 tackles, a deflection and an interception near the goal line on the game's last play at Washington State, 8 stops with a deflection against Washington and a tackle versus Arizona State. He made a game-best 11 tackles (with a deflection) at Oregon State, added 4 stops at Stanford, had 4 tackles and returned an interception 38 yards against Oregon and 6 tackles and an interception against California. He had 7 tackles against Notre Dame, 3 at UCLA and 4 versus Michigan.
HIGH SCHOOL: He was named a 2005 Parade All-American (he was the defensive back MVP), USA Today All-USA first team, EA Sports All-American first team, Super Prep Elite 50, Prep Star Dream Team, ESPN 150, Super Prep All-American, Prep Star All-American, U.S. Army All-American Game participant, Old Spice Red Zone Player of the Year, Super Prep All-Farwest, Prep Star All-Western, Long Beach Press-Telegram Best in the West first team, Orange County Register Fab 15 first team, Tacoma News-Tribune Western 100, Tacoma News Tribune Northwest Nugget, Gatorade Washington Player of the Year, All-State first team and All-Metro League Mountain Division Offensive MVP and Defensive Co-MVP pick as a senior defensive back, wide receiver and quarterback at O'Dea High in Seattle, Wash. He had 166 tackles, 5 interceptions returned for 98 yards (19.6 avg.) and 5 deflections in 2005, plus caught 36 passes for 765 yards (21.3 avg.) with 15 TDs and rushed for 3 more scores.
As a junior in 2004, he made Student Sports Junior All-American while posting 89 tackles, 5 interceptions and 5 deflections, catching 25 passes for 614 yards (20.6 avg.) with 7 TDs and returning 12 punts for 392 yards (32.7 avg.) with 3 TDs.
He also ran track (best of 10.88 in the 100 meters) at O'Dea, where he was a 2-time (2004-05) state 3A champion in the 100 and 200 meters.
PERSONAL: He's a sociology major at USC. His father, Stafford Mays, was a defensive lineman at Washington in 1978 and 1979 who then played in the NFL with the St. Louis Cardinals (1980-86) and Minnesota Vikings (1987-88 when current USC head coach Pete Carroll was an assistant coach there).
TAYLOR MAYS ON: His game: "I'm able to cover a lot of ground. I'm able to get to the ball no matter where it is on the field. I've developed a great understanding of what the offense likes to do, so I'm able to react before the play has even happened."
Playing safety at USC: "This is a great system for a safety, because I can be a hybrid linebacker/cornerback. And because the coaches really give us the freedom to attack and go make plays."
His decision to return to USC in 2009: "I felt like I had more to prove in college football and I wanted one more chance to win a national championship...There are a lot more things I want to accomplish as a player, a student and a person, things that I've dreamed about for a long time and that are big goals to me. Returning to USC will help me be the best player I can be and put me in the best position possible for the next level. It came down to whether I felt I was ready physically and mentally. I feel there are some more things in my game that I can improve upon, things that would help me take the next step. I didn't want to sell myself short. Plus, I want to be here for my teammates and provide an example to them as a leader and a player. I love the camaraderie here and the atmosphere. USC is a special place. From all the players I've talked to in the NFL, they say it's a whole different world up there. They enjoyed college more than the NFL. I want to enjoy my last year of fun before it turns into a business. I'm also on track to graduate this fall and I know that's a big deal to my parents."
The advice he received from his father: "He retired in 1989, so it wasn't like I ran around NFL practice fields when I was young. But he gave me a lot of insight. He could tell me about things because he went through them."
His bar mitzvah: "I don't think at the time I really understood what it meant. Now, looking back on it, I feel like I have come a long way in regards to maturity and becoming an adult. I think it helped me do that."
WHAT OTHERS SAY: USC head coach Pete Carroll: "He's a high achiever, driven, all of the positive things. He wants to be great and he's willing to do what it takes to be great. He doesn't just talk about it, he does it...We were obviously delighted to learn of Taylor's decision to return for the 2009 season. He and his family did a lot of research and made an educated decision. He embodies all the virtues of staying. He wanted to do this not only to improve as a player, but he came back for his team, for his school and for the fans. We're looking forward to Taylor having another outstanding season in 2009 and furthering his standing as a player and a person. He's one of the most gifted safeties to ever play at USC and he wanted to come back and do it one more time."
Former USC safety Kevin Ellison: "He's a great athlete, but people don't give him enough credit for how smart he is about football. He studies the game. He works hard. He wants to be great. He's going to do his job. You can count on Taylor to take care of his responsibility."
USC strength and conditioning coach Chris Carlisle: "Have I ever seen anyone that big move that fast? Maybe when I walked by the cheetah cage at the wildlife park."
GAME-BY-GAME WITH TAYLOR MAYS