Veteran linebackers lead the way for the Washburn defense

Drew Egnoske

When one of Washburn’s  linebackers make a play it usually has a ripple effect through the whole team.  

To the individuals that make up this group, it’s just business as usual.

That is because these guys are constantly making plays.  Whether it is during practice or a game, there is always one in a position to make a big play.

Success for the LBs starts with the leader of the group, Jahmil Taylor.  He has set an example for the underclassmen to follow.  Taylor views himself as a hybrid type of linebacker who can play physical but also drop back and use finesse as well.  

“I’m inspired by and grew up wanting to be Ray Lewis,” said Taylor. “He plays the game with passion and does it because he loves it.  He has an amazing level of dedication.”  

Taylor also points out that he likes the fact that a former teammate of his gets to play on the same field as Lewis every Sunday for the Baltimore Ravens.  Cary Williams has played in the NFL since 2008 and was drafted by the Tennessee Titans before ultimately finding a home in Baltimore as a starting cornerback for the Ravens.  

“I’m pretty envious of Cary because he has the opportunity to play with one of the greats and he came from the same place as I am at right now,” said Taylor.

Taylor has sat out the last two games because of injury, but he isn’t too worried about his absence being a problem.Willie Williams is an outside linebacker that Taylor sees a lot of talent in.  He has watched the redshirt junior from Berkeley, Mo. improve every year that he has been at Washburn.  

“Willie Williams is a great athlete and can play almost any position on the field,” said Taylor. “I think he is finally starting to incorporate the mental aspect of football into his game.”

Williams grew up in a suburb of St. Louis and didn’t play football until his freshman year of high school.

“Where I lived not many people played organized sports,” said Williams.   

Williams high school career was very successful and he was named to the all-metro and all-state teams at linebacker.

Williams decided that going to school in Topeka to major in history was the right move for him.  

“I lived and went to school in a mostly all black area so I came to Washburn to get a culture shock and to see what a small town lifestyle was like,” said Williams.

He has incorporated his big-city lifestyle into his gameplay and has become a very vocal leader of the defense.  He also gets a lot of his inspiration from the same player Taylor does.

“I look up to Ray Lewis because he is vocal and still makes plays,” said Williams.  

“He goes full speed all the time and is a vocal leader.  He leads by example and that’s what I try to do.”

Jaime Myers and Bryce Atagi round out the linebacker quartet.  Atagi plays middle linebacker with Taylor while Myers, a redshirt freshman, plays opposite of Williams on the outside.

Myers, a coverage type of linebacker, uses strength and speed to disrupt opposing offenses.  He credits his success at the collegiate level to strength and conditioning coach, David Trupp.

“He does a great job getting us ready,” said Myers. “He knows how the body feels and knows the lifts necessary for us to perform well.”  

Myers is very impressed by the leadership he sees in his fellow linebackers and believes they are guys to emulate in his future growth.  

“Like every team we make mistakes but what’s good about this group of guys on our defense is we have the leaders to step up and tell everyone ‘hey we need to step it up’ or ‘hey this is not how we play,’” said Myers.

Myers grew up in Norman, Okla., the home to the Oklahoma Sooners.  His childhood memories are filled with watching them play and trying to replicate their success in his own play style.  

“I was a Sooner fan growing up.  All I could remember is being a child walking around on Saturdays hearing everyone yell ‘Boomer Sooner,’” said Myers.  “Everyone I hung out with played sports so every day it was football or basketball or tag.  We just liked to be active kids.”

His thorough understanding of the Sooners and how they play the game has taught him that the key to being successful is to not be selfish.  

“There is no one greater than the team so I’m just trying to do my part and give the team my best effort,” said Myers.

Myers really enjoys the company of his fellow linebackers, especially that of Atagi.  The aggressive play style that Atagi has is truly inspiring to Myers.  

“Bryce is an aggressive player and has a full speed, knock you out type of mentality,” said Myers.  “I love it, he knows how to make plays and it helps our defense out.”

Atagi is another vocal leader on the defense who sees it as his duty to rally his players to get them in the right mindset.  

“I like to lead the charge and be loud,” said Atagi.

Atagi, a redshirt junior, is a native of Shawnee, Kan. where he excelled at both running back and defensive back in high school.  He ultimately made the decision to play at Washburn because they gave him the opportunity to play the position of his choice.  

The man of Samoan descent started as a sophomore for Washburn and has become a vital part of the defense’s identity.  Taylor and Atagi share a special bond that has created an effective run-stop tandem.  

“Whenever we are on the field together, we are always on the same page and know what each other is doing,” said Atagi.