LOS ANGELES (AP) — If Taylor Embree’s father can’t walk with him on Senior Day at the Rose Bowl because he’s too busy firing up UCLA’s opponents, the Bruins receiver will understand.
Jon Embree is Colorado’s first-year head coach, and his son has been anticipating Saturday’s weird reunion ever since he saw the Buffaloes at the bottom of the Bruins’ schedule.
“I know my mom is going to be nagging him to walk me out,” Taylor Embree said. “But I told him I don’t want him to be able to use that as an excuse in the game, that he wasn’t there to give the pregame talk. I’m just excited that he’s even going to be on the field while I’m playing. I understand more than anyone that he has a job that he needs to do.”
Although Taylor Embree is in the final weeks of a solid career at UCLA after spending most of his high school career in the Los Angeles suburbs, he’s a Colorado kid at heart.
His father and uncle both went to Colorado, and the 23-year-old Taylor was born in Denver and spent 11 years of his childhood in Boulder until Jon got a job at UCLA in 2003. Taylor grew up dreaming of playing at Folsom Field, not the Rose Bowl.
“In second grade, the teacher asked me to stand up and say the Pledge of Allegiance,” Taylor Embree said. “I said, ‘I don’t know the pledge, but I can sing the CU fight song.’ So I had to lead the whole class in the CU fight song. I’m going to be mad every time I hear that fight song at the game, though. That song is going to be like the Trojans’ fight song. It’s going to be annoying to me by the time the game is over.”
He’s eager to beat his father’s Buffaloes, who stand in the way of a sixth victory and probable bowl eligibility for UCLA (5-5, 4-3 Pac-12), which still controls its destiny atop the Pac-12 South division. Colorado (2-9, 1-6) is simply looking for a solid finish to a rough Pac-12 debut.
Embree is the seventh-leading receiver in UCLA history with 130 career catches, and he ranks 14th with 1,700 yards receiving in his four years in Westwood. He was among the Bruins’ top two receivers in each of his first two seasons, but his production has dropped this year with just 13 catches for 152 yards, fourth-best on the team.
That won’t stop Jon Embree’s defense from keeping an eye on his son. He knows all about Bruins coach Rick Neuheisel’s ideas for getting the ball into the UCLA receivers’ hands — and he can provide a particularly detailed scouting report on No. 82.
“He is a physical receiver,” Jon Embree said. “He likes to go across the middle. He likes to work the inside of the field. Him and Nelson (Rosario), his roommate, they are good on the 50-50 balls, so if you throw it up there, they win most of those battles. He loves to block and get after you. All those traits come from his mother. His temper and all of those things, strictly from Natalyn.”
Jon Embree said he doesn’t think he’ll be particularly aware of his son’s presence on the field, yet Taylor Embree isn’t buying it. He knows he gets his competitive drive from his father — and that spirit got him in trouble last month when he earned a one-game suspension for his involvement in a brawl during the Bruins’ blowout loss at Arizona. Jon reminded his son to keep his feistiness between the whistles.
“I love playing against my dad, whether it’s basketball, pool, PlayStation and now football, so I’m excited to have that opportunity,” Taylor said. “We haven’t played one-on-one since one time we went up to the park and I told him I could dunk. Since then, he’s never played me one-on-one. We can only play H-O-R-S-E. He gets me every once in a while.”
Taylor attended the Buffs’ loss to Oregon earlier this season, and he has watched every Colorado game on tape while stoking a newfound interest in coaching for a player who never anticipated getting into that line of work.
Taylor Embree still speaks with his father six times per week, and their talks haven’t ended just because they’re facing each other on Saturday. Jon Embree is still coaching his son, even while he’s coaching the Buffaloes.
“It is the same thing that I tell him every week,” Jon Embree said. “I’ll talk to him on Friday night and I’ll tell him to play fast, play physical, and go have fun.”
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.