By STEVE CORNELIUS, CJ Sports Editor
Taylor Speaks and Jon Floyd both grew up in Somerset, Ky. They both were active in sports and they both loved to play football.
As 12-year-old boys, the two were teammates on the Bucs in the Lake Cumberland Youth Football League in the fall of 2005. Early on, the two young gridders formed a friendship that was built from a football camaraderie.
“I remember meeting (Taylor) Speaks at our first practice together and instantly forming a friendship that I knew would last for a long time,” Floyd recalled. “Speaks played ‘O-line’ back then and I played running back, so I had to depend on him for much of my successes. I also remember all of the times we would go home with each other and hang out with the rest of my teammates including Alex Lange, Rob Stevenson, Jarrod Wesley, and many others.”
During those early years playing in the LCYFL, Taylor Speaks formed a competitive rivalry with his friend and teammate.
"Back then, Jon was competitive, not only directed towards the other team but his teammates as well,” Speaks chuckled. “So the saying goes: As iron sharpens iron, so does one man sharpen another. Well, Jon was the teammate to do just that. He and I were always in friendly competition with one another, so naturally this carried over into the football in the form of who could get the most tackles each game which always pushed us to perform our best.”
“Playing for the Bucs in the LCYFL we all had a sense of pride that each of us carried into every game,” Speaks continued. “The Bucs always played together as a unit, and that was especially true for Jon and I. Every game night was a war in our minds and that certainly reflected that in our play. There truly was nothing like the feeling of utter exhaustion after leaving it all out there on the field and enjoying the sweet taste of victory as well. Not to mention that I got to do it all with my best friends.”
From an early age, Speaks and Floyd both learned to appreciate the game of football from stories and lessons they had learned from their fathers.
“One of my biggest memories of the LCYFL was all of the early mornings I would spend over at Somersport Park with my dad talking about playing hard and remembering that winning wasn’t the only part of football, but becoming a good man was the most important goal,” Floyd recalled. “My father, Tommy Floyd, was actually my coach for the Bucs and he was the one who taught me how the game worked and started the development of my love for the game from the age of five.”
Playing pick-up games in the backyard, the two young football players would pretended they were playing in the championship game for the Somerset High School Briar Jumpers. After all, both of their fathers, Tommy Floyd and Jason Speaks, had played football for the Somerset Briar Jumpers. They both wanted to follow in their fathers’ footsteps, and they both looked forward to the day they played together on Friday nights at Clark Field.
But the Briar Jumper gridiron fantasy never materialized after Jon Floyd relocated to Richmond, Ky. with his family.
The two young boys soon turned into young adults, who were having great success with their respective high school teams – Jon Floyd at Madison Central High School and Taylor Speaks at Somerset High School. And like most young athletes, both Floyd and Speaks hoped to one day play football on Saturday’s in a big college stadium.
“I always wanted to play college football while growing up as a kid,” Speaks stated. “I always dreamt of running out of the tunnel at Commonwealth Stadium with all the people from Somerset there to watch.”
And while the two were learning the ropes at the high school level, their once strong friendship started to fade away with the 54-mile separation.
“Unfortunately, Jon and I were never as close as we were before he moved up to Madison County,” Speaks said. “Although we were always friends and kept up with each others’ careers, naturally it was hard to maintain such a close relationship with the separation.”
For Jon Floyd, football was a huge part of his life and he was determined to continue to play as long as he could.
“From the first time I stepped on the football field, I knew I wanted to make this sport a major part of my life,” Floyd admitted. “I grew up a huge fan of college football watching the likes of the University of Kentucky, University of Tennessee, and my favorite the Virginia Tech Hookies. Watching those players perform in their respective stadiums each Saturday lit a fire under me to try and achieve the type of success that they themselves had accomplished.”
The two prep players only got to see each other briefly when they attended the same summer football camps. The once teammates and best of friends now seemed more like distant acquaintance to each other during their brief encounters at football camps.
“When we attended camps together we never really had the thought of playing together,” Floyd admitted. “We honestly were more focused on bragging about whose high school team was better and who had better stats. That’s what friends do, they always try and one up each other.”
After their high school football careers had ended, both Floyd and Speaks got the opportunity to move on to the next level and play at the collegiate level. Speaks committed to play his collegiate ball at Georgetown College, while Floyd got to stay close to home and signed to play at the Division 1 (FCS) Eastern Kentucky University.
“I knew early on that Jon would be attending Eastern Kentucky via my grandparents, who were friends with Jon’s grandparents and usually updated one another,” Speaks said. “Jon and I ran into each other in the early summer and I had informed him about my commitment to Georgetown College.”
But within weeks after verbally committing to Georgetown College, Taylor Speaks was contacted by the coaches at Eastern Kentucky University, who were interested in his specialized long snapper abilities. A few days later, Speaks was offered a scholarship to play for the EKU Colonels.
And upon getting the news of his offer to play at Eastern Kentucky University, Speaks immediately reached out to a long-lost best friend.
“Once I got into contact with Coach Hood and EKU, Jon was the first person – bedsides my family – I called and talked to about it,” Speaks exclaimed. “Jon even took me on a tour of Richmond and helped me get acquainted with campus.”
That phone call between Jon Floyd and Taylor Speaks was the spark that rekindled an old friendship, and a the hopes of two former LCYFL Bucs playing together again on the grandest of stages.
“It wasn’t until the summer going into my freshman year at Eastern that I knew Speaks and myself would cross paths again,” Floyd said. “I received a phone call from Speaks two weeks before football camp telling me that Eastern had offered him the chance to long snap for the team. Knowing this, not only gave me a teammate that I would know from the start, but as well as the return of a great friend who I had spent my great childhood years with.”
And its wasn’t long before the two yong men took up where they had left off almost six years ago.
“Ever since I came up to see Jon and tour around Eastern last summer, its been like we always were around each other,” Speaks said. “We hang out together pretty often and it’s been a blessing to have a good friend to go to battle with every Saturday for our new team – the EKU Colonels.”
The 54 miles and six years apart from each other was quickly forgotten as the two gridiron buddies were reunited as teammates and friends again.
“The last two seasons have been great for me and Speaks, not only do we have each others backs on the field, we also hang out off the field,” Floyd said. “We both have had the opportunity to have ample playing time for Eastern in the past two years and we are both fortunate to be where we are today.”
Eight years ago, Taylor Speaks and Jon Floyd were playing in front of hand full of parents on the LCYFL Ikerd Field. Now, the two friends are playing in front of over 20,000 fans at EKU’s Roy Kidd Stadium.
Playing in a big college stadium was always lifelong dreams for both Jon Floyd and Taylor Speaks. But along the way, the two young men discovered that the lifelong friendships made on the football field were just as important.
“We always have talks together about the old days, whether it be about the intense battles the Bucs had with the Jets, or all of the practices we shared together,” Floyd commented. “Those years still and will always have a vital impact on our football careers – as well as our lives.”