With the Super Bowl days away, Baltimore Ravens quarterback Tyrod Taylor is aware just how close he could be to playing a prominent role in the world's most famous football game.
He has to be. It's what backup quarterbacks do, even if they play behind someone as durable as Joe Flacco, who not only has started every game in his five-year pro career but rarely comes out, even in blowouts.
Still, Taylor preps himself day-in and day-out. Just in case.
"If you look across the league, there are so many situations over the years, even this year, where the next man gets called," the second-year quarterback out of Virginia Tech said. "And you have to be ready. It may come sooner than you want it. It may not come as soon as you would like it to, but you have to be ready for when it comes."
Taylor, 23, might not play in New Orleans on Sunday when the Ravens face the San Francisco 49ers, but he can't contain his excitement about even the potential of participating in a game that will be watched by more than 100 million people nationwide.
"It's the game that you always wanted to play in," Taylor said. "So who wouldn't want to go out there and play well and impress people and show people what you can do?"
Holding a clipboard has been an adjustment for Taylor, who starred at Hampton High. He started 42 games at Virginia Tech, playing nearly from the second he stepped on campus.
He left Blacksburg as the ACC's Offensive Player of the Year and the Hokies' career leader in total offense, passing yards and rushing yards and wins by a quarterback.
Drafted in the sixth round by Baltimore in 2011, he's been Flacco's backup since. The NFL lockout last season cost him the benefit of offseason activities that first spring and summer.
He played in three games as a rookie, completing his only pass for 18 yards. He maintained the backup spot heading into 2012 - Baltimore has carried only two quarterbacks each of his years in the league - although his reps in games remained limited.
Until the regular-season finale in December, that is. Taylor replaced Flacco early in the first half of a game at Cincinnati once the Ravens' postseason status was clinched.
In his first extended action, Taylor went 15 for 25 for 149 yards. His lowlight was throwing a pass near the end zone that was deflected, intercepted and returned for a touchdown by Bengals defensive end Carlos Dunlap.
But he also scored his first NFL touchdown, showing off his mobility on a play-action fake that turned into a bootleg and a 1-yard score. He considers his career highlight.
"Of course we didn't get the win, which was the overall goal," Taylor said. "But I believe I showed that I can play in this league."
He's had a front-row seat for the Ravens' postseason run, an improbable one that's included road victories over Peyton Manning's Denver Broncos and Tom Brady's New England Patriots. It's been spurred by the pending retirement of linebacker Ray Lewis, who returned from a triceps injury to take one final shot at the Super Bowl.
"What he means to us and what he means to Baltimore altogether, that's why we don't want to send him out on a bad note," Taylor said. "So of course, we play hard. His presence being back on the field has definitely meant a lot, too."
Taylor has sought advice from Lewis and receiver Anquan Boldin about what it's like playing in a Super Bowl. Their message? Enjoy the moment, but don't forget the game.
"A lot of guys go early on in their career and spend the rest of their careers trying to get back there," Taylor said. "And some people play a long time in this league and they never play. They never play in a Super Bowl.
"You don't want to get down there and lose sight of the game.... You just have to be focused and go out there and remember the one thing that we're down there to do, and that's win a Super Bowl. And you always remember the Super Bowl winner. You don't remember who lost the game."
As for nerves, Taylor doesn't think they will be an issue.
"I think you're nervous if you're not prepared," he said. "I know it's going to be exciting. I'm definitely going to be excited. But you have to be able to calm all that down and be able to go out and play football.
"If my number is called, I'll be ready for it."
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