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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Washington State’s Robert Taylor has been running back kicks for a long time

Washington State’s Robert Taylor’s earned Pac-12 special teams Player of the Week honors after his 100-yard kickoff return against Ariozona State on Saturday, Oct. 22, 2016. (Joe Camporeale / Associated Press)

PULLMAN – Robert Taylor’s 100-yard kick return against Arizona State was Washington State’s first since 2003. But for Taylor, who is in his first year with the Cougars after transferring from the City College of San Francisco, the time between returns had not been nearly so long.

He has been a special teams weapon ever since his Pop Warner days playing for the San Jose Steelers, and his youth and high school coaches told him “run it back, Rob” that the phrase became a de facto nickname.

“Pop Warner was probably my most exciting time when it came to running back kicks,” Taylor said. “I once ran three kickoffs back in one game. That was probably my biggest kick return moment.”

Robert Taylor’s 100-yard kickoff return against Ariozona State earned him Pac-12 special teams Player of the Week honors, making him the first WSU player to be named Player of the Week on offense, defense or special teams this season.

“I got a notification when I was in class about it, saw it on Twitter,” Taylor said. “Haven’t really gotten to say too much about it yet. My mom found out about it and posted (on social media) before I did.”

Taylor’s return was critical during WSU’s 37-32 win at ASU. Not only did it account for more points than the final margin of victory, it came at a critical juncture for WSU, which had just fallen behind 14-3.

That plays impact illustrates why Leach has offensive and defensive starters, like Taylor who starts at free safety, play key roles on special teams.

“It’s not a full third of hte game, but it’s up there,” Leach said. “On a single play it’s the biggest exchange of yards that exists in football. So, if you’re going to exchange that mnay yards, you better put your best foot forwards.”