As the story is told, sometime in 2017, Union Pines High School cross country coach Nat Carter called then-Sandhills Community College athletic director Aaron Denton to tell him about a pretty good runner who was currently walking around the campus.
Representing the college's first-ever cross country team a few months later, Daniel Taylor won the 8K run at Methodist University's Monarch Cross Country Classic against NCAA Division II and III competition and helped the Flyer men finish second.
The recent recipient of the 2018 Louis M. Brown, Sr. Award for Excellence in Athletics followed that up by earning NJCAA Division III All-American honors in both cross country and track the past two years. The award is presented annually to the outstanding student-athlete at Sandhills.
Daniel just keeps winning awards," says Flyers' coach Jef Moody. "He might be the most un-famous, famous person around here. He's old school when it comes to being competitive."
Taylor went on to earn All-American honors for the first time when he finished second by 1.1 seconds at the 2017 NJCAA Division III National Championship. His 2018 accomplishments include first place finishes, and All-American honors, in both the 5,000 and 10,000 meter runs last June at the NJCAA Track and Field Championships held in Utica, N.Y. where the Flyer men were runner-ups in the team competition.
He capped off 2018 by winning the national title in cross country at the meet held last month in Westfield, Mass. by a margin of 46 seconds as his team came in second.
"Daniel is the leader, but I call the whole crew the "foundation bunch", Moody says, referring to the overall success of the men's and women's cross country and track and field programs that are in their second years. "They all came in here not knowing what to expect."
On the student side of the considerations that go into making the Louis M. Brown Sr. Award selection, Taylor recalls making A's in all of his courses except for a B in a college course he took while in high school. He has already earned an Associates Degree at Sandhills and had originally planned to transfer to a four-year college next semester.
The son of John and Asa Taylor has changed his plans and will remain at Sandhills, compete again in track for the Flyers in the spring and then join the Marine Corps. His father is a former marine.
He is thankful to his family that includes a sister, Danielle, for supporting him in all of his pursuits as well as his teachers and the staff at Sandhills.
"I didn't think I'd be running anywhere close to where I am now and I wanted to finish up running for Coach Moody and then get ready for boot camp," he says.
Three weeks ago, Taylor tied the meet record in winning the annual 12K Reindeer Fun Run in nearby Aberdeen. He came to his coach a few days later asking if he could run 15 miles.
"I'll be honest," Moody says, "He could probably run anywhere in the country with that work ethic."
The support of the Louis Brown family goes back to the founding of the college in 1963. Louis Brown is remembered as a gifted student who was passionate about sports and helping people. Previous award recipients are: 2017 Josh Smith, basketball; 2016 Tiffany Hicks, volleyball and Nick Kroustalis, golf; 2015, Ediz Kemaloglu, golf; 2014 Nick Thompson, golf; 2013, Nick Thompson, golf; 2012 Markell Lotharp, basketball; 2011 Miranda Love, volleyball; 2010 Chris Horne, golf and Germann Bostic, basketball; 2009 Chris Horne, golf.