Once rivals, Browns teammates return home -- Gazette.Net


On Monday night, teammates Joe Haden III and Phil Taylor and the rest of the Cleveland Browns are scheduled to play the Washington Redskins in an NFL preseason matchup. It’ll be their first game at Landover’s FedEx Field, but hardly their first in Prince George’s County.

Haden, a Pro Bowl cornerback, and Taylor, a 337-pound defensive tackle, played at rival schools a decade ago. Haden, 25, was a star quarterback for Friendly High School in Fort Washington (Class of 2006) and helped lead the Patriots to a 3A state title in 2006. Taylor, 26, was a two-way lineman for Gwynn Park in Brandywine (2005) and helped the Yellow Jackets win a 3A state title in 2005.

Haden never beat his Browns teammate and can still recall their first meeting in Brandywine, when he was hit by Gwynn Park’s behemoth lineman and knocked out of the game.

“Phil put me in the ambulance,” said Haden, a Fort Washington native. “… I think it might have been a concussion.”

Haden defeated Gwynn Park as a senior in 2006, after Taylor graduated. He won a state title later that season and was named All-Gazette Player of the Year. He then played at the University of Florida for three seasons before entering the 2010 NFL Draft and getting selected seventh overall by the Browns.

Friendly coach Vaughn Smith, an assistant from 2003 to 2007, said the staff recognized early on that Haden was destined for stardom.

“He played one game at [junior varsity]. We saw a skinny kid that was just running away from kids,” Smith said.

The next game, Haden moved up to varsity, where he would compile 7,371 passing yards in four seasons — third all time in the state, according to a Maryland high school football reference website run by Sheldon Shealer.

“You put the ball in his hands and he was electrifying. He could run. He could pass. A 4.30 [40-yard dash] kid at quarterback, he was [incredible],” Smith said. “He saw things before they even happened and that’s what made him so good.”

Taylor, an All-Gazette First Team selection in 2005, attended Penn State and Baylor before he was selected 21st overall by the Browns in the 2011 NFL Draft. The former Prince George’s County rivals have had success together in Cleveland. Haden has 13 career interceptions and 67 pass deflections; Taylor, a Clinton native, has recorded seven sacks and 99 total tackles.

“In Prince George’s County, they really have a lot of athletes that come out of there and a lot of players that ball out,” Haden said. “I think it’s really cool to have one of them on my team.”

Taylor, a Redskins fan growing up, said he is looking forward to returning home this weekend.

“It means a lot,” Taylor said. “It’s going to good having a lot of family coming there.”

Haden said friends and relatives will be in attendance for the 8 p.m. game, televised on ESPN.

“It’s big, man,” Haden said. “All my best friends, everybody that I hung out with was a big Redskins fan ... Coming home, I finally get to play in front of all my friends that haven’t gotten to seen me play in Cleveland.”