Versatile Vol: Arnold proves worth to Starkville Academy

Taylor Arnold (10) looks for running room for Starkville Academy against East Webster.

Staff Writer

Since early on in his sporting career, Taylor Arnold has been putting his hands and feet in wherever he could at Starkville Academy.

Arnold has been a football star for years at the school and has also showcased his skills on the basketball court at times. His future could be on the diamond as a baseball player and he's set for a big senior season as one of the top pitchers for Thomas Berkery.

For now, though, the gridiron beckons and he’s taken in many plays over the years for the Volunteers at J.E. Logan Field. Arnold was the starting quarterback, played defense, kicked and punted for the junior varsity in ninth grade and he was the best player on the field. Since coming to high school, he’s still making his mark at different positions and that includes in special teams this season as the kicker.

“He’s so smart and that’s one of the things people don’t know about him,” Starkville Academy head football coach and athletic director Chase Nicholson said. “He’s a great athlete, but he understands what’s going on out there. He was our number one punter last year and this year he drops punting and starts kicking field goals. I feel like you can put him at linebacker on defense or wide receiver and quarterback on offense and he’d be just as good. Having the brain to go along with his ability is the difference.”

Arnold is 3-for-4 on his field goals in his senior season and hit 12-of-14 extra points. He’s also been returning kicks and punts and has four kickoff returns for 153 yards and a touchdown. All of that comes to no surprise to those that have seen him run the football over the years.

His work in the backfield has been well-documented. Last season, Arnold rushed for over 1,500 yards and helped his team to the Class AAA State championship. He’s picking up where he left off this year with 83 carries for 463 yards and four touchdowns.

The duties at running back along with what he’s doing in special teams and even some on defense is just what he feels he’s supposed to do.

“I’m just out there doing whatever I can to help the team win,” Arnold said. “At running back, I do the easy part. The line handles the hard part for me. They open it up and I just follow their holes.”

Any position will do – just get Arnold on the field. That’s the mantra that Nicholson has been living by over the course of his coaching career at SA. Earlier in the spring, he had Arnold working at quarterback with Garrett Lewis but felt he was best served running the football.

There’s no telling where the talented athlete may end up as the season progresses, but Nicholson knows that he’ll excel wherever that may be. It’s the drive that Arnold has in him and the pride for his school and teammates that helps put him over the top and it’s led to a 4-0 start.

“He’s a leader," Nicholson said. "If I wanted him to play quarterback he would do it, but I need him at running back. He is going to be what makes us go as one of the few returners on offense. As an individual, he wants to be successful and he wants to put it on his shoulders to help the team. Last year we had some other guys that stepped up in that role, but this year he makes us go.”