Now, they are teammates at the Browns' training camp.
After a recent practice, Taylor and Jean-Baptiste were able to reminisce about their days at Baylor with Bears defensive line coach Chris Achuff, who was in town visiting his former players.
“It’s kind of surreal because watching them grow up from when they were young to where they are now, and how they’ve advanced, seeing them play side-by-side, it’ll be an awesome feeling for me knowing that they’ve hit the pinnacle of their careers,” Achuff said of seeing Taylor and Jean-Baptiste playing in the NFL together. “It was great, smiles all around. I haven’t seen Phil probably in about a year-and-a-half, and it’s been over a year since I’ve seen Nick as well.”
Taylor is entering his third season with the Browns, while Jean-Baptiste is in his first offseason in Cleveland after being signed by the Ravens as an undrafted free agent and spending a month on the Indianapolis Colts' practice squad last year.
Taylor and Jean-Baptiste played at Baylor together from 2009-10. It was during that time that the Bears began to reach their turning point as a football program. After not having a winning season since 1995, the Bears went 7-5 in the regular season and earned an invitation to the Texas Bowl in 2010, their first postseason appearance in 16 years.
“I’ll tell you what, those two together made me look like a pretty good football coach,” Achuff said with a laugh. “They, the two of them, are big reasons where we are as a university and as a football team.
“To watch their success when it was in college, and to see how those two are succeeding now in the NFL, it makes you feel pretty good that you helped them get in the right direction.”
Achuff described Taylor, a 6-foot-3, 335-pound defensive tackle, and Jean-Baptiste, 6-1, 330, as being physical players who enjoy opening up holes in opposing offensive lines and making plays in the backfield.
“Phil, as a player, is very strong,” Achuff said. “He has the ability to overtake offensive linemen with one move, and he’s very physical at the point of attack. Nick is the same. He’s not quite as quick as Phil, but he has the ability to create leverage for himself, be able to fill his gaps and do exactly what you ask him to do. He has very good change-of-direction abilities.
“Off the field, they’re two guys that like to joke around and have a good time. They’re not troublemakers. They’re young men that are going to take care of their business, and they’re going to know how to relax, but they’re going to do it the way you’re supposed to do it.”
Having worked with them in the past and observing them on the practice field last Sunday, Achuff expects good things from the former Baylor tandem.
“Phil’s a big-time player for the Browns right now, and he’s done a great job in his two years,” Achuff said. “Nick is trying to find his way, but has an opportunity to do it. It’d be awesome to see them play together.
“For Phil, the sky’s the limit. Nick’s just got to get a chance, and if he gets that chance, he won’t disappoint.”