BOULDER, Colo. –
A universal story in college sports is the senior coming back for one last shot.
Whatever the team, and whether it’s one player or a whole group, a college athlete’s senior season is a deadline — and even if an athlete has won a conference title, national championship or an individual award, leaving on top as a senior is the perfect movie-script ending.
University of Colorado senior Mac Taylor has set himself up with the potential to make that Hollywood ending a reality.
As a fifth-year senior leader with Mamabird, CU’s men’s club Ultimate Frisbee team and the No. 6 collegiate men’s team in the country, Taylor still has the chance to bring home an elusive national championship for the team — and a major award for himself.
“I’ve almost gotten there, and definitely this year the goal is to win it all,” Taylor said. “This is the best I’ve felt about a team in my five years.”
Taylor has come from never playing the sport competitively before his freshman year to being one of three team captains — and a nominee for the prestigious Callahan Award.
Beyond just an award for the top collegiate Ultimate player in the nation, the Callahan Award is about the spirit of the game.
It’s voted on by all collegiate athletes in the Ultimate Players Association, and is named after Henry Callahan, an avid Frisbee player and advocate for the sport who, coincidentally, was shot and killed in Boulder in 1982.
One other Mamabird player, Joshua Ackley, has won the award; he won it the same year as CU’s only national title, 2004. This year’s championship starts May 22 in Columbus, Ohio, and the Callahan will be awarded there.
Mamabird head coach Jim Schoettler isn’t surprised that Taylor is in the running for the award.
“(The Callahan Award is) based on being a good player and also based on sportsmanship. There’s a lot of really good players out there who lack in spirit,” Schoettler said. “People play against Mac because he’s so spirited and because he’s so good.
“You hate to go out and lose to him, but you have no complaints.”
Schoettler would know a thing or two about that as well — playing for Stanford’s Ultimate team, he won the 1997 Callahan Award. He sees, in Taylor, somebody who can do everything on the field — and do it extremely well.
“Mac’s tall, he can jump, he’s really fast, he has really good hands, he can throw the disc well,” Schoettler said. “On the ultimate field, he’s playing a different game than many people.”
Taylor, an experienced athlete who played soccer and tennis in high school, learned the sport at CU.
“I’d played with some friends, throwing around the disc before, and I heard the team here had won nationals the year before,” Taylor said. “I was just looking for something to challenge me.”
Now in his fifth year with Mamabird, Taylor has helped extend the squad’s run of national tournament appearances to 11 consecutive years — including two finals appearances, in 2005 and 2007.
Schoettler thought that was a benefit of the sport.
“That’s one of the nice things about Ultimate on a college level — people who played sports before can start from ground zero and can make an impact,” Schoettler said.
Off the field, Taylor is active in making sure the club gets to where it’s going — sometimes literally.
“We go to four or five tournaments out of state per semester, so you have to deal with hotels, rental cars, fees for everything,” Taylor said. “There’s plenty of that stuff to do.”
The bonding experience within the team has been great for him as well.
“The guys on the team are my social circle,” Taylor said. “Like any sports team, it provides bonds you’re not going to lose easily.”
Part of that also is the origin and meaning of the team name. Taylor said it’s a closely guarded secret, revealed to newcomers only after they make it to the national tournament with the A-team.
As for bringing home a second men’s national championship for CU, the Mamabird leader has that target in his sights.
“The Callahan would be icing on the cake, and the cake is definitely the national title,” Taylor said.