SANTA CLARA — Trent Taylor is using the frustration he felt in his sophomore season as motivation heading into his third year with the 49ers.
The wide receiver took an isolationist approach to training during the offseason, turning down working in Nashville with teammate George Kittle. Instead, he holed up in Santa Clara, working with fewer distractions a la Bruce Wayne in “Batman Begins.”
“I just liked the fact that I’m out here, there were probably five or six guys out here and I liked the fact that I was isolated out here, by myself, no family, no friends,” Taylor said. “All I had to focus on was work, and that’s all I wanted to focus on, and so I enjoyed it.
“My parents were getting worried about me [that] I was getting a little lonely out here, but I was good with it. I enjoyed getting work done and getting ready for the season. I just thought it was a big deal for me to just stay here.”
Kittle joked that Taylor wasn’t invited, but Taylor said the reason was simpler. He wanted to stay focused on his preparation for the season.
“Yeah, George was a little offended that I didn’t go and hang out with him in Nashville, but I had a lot fo work to do,” Taylor said. “It’s a business, so friendship can wait until later. After the offseason is over with and we make a lot of money, then we can do whatever we want but we had business to take care of.”
Early in training camp, that decision is paying off. Taylor looks refreshed and able to run routes faster, with his body now able to do what he asks of it.
That wasn’t the case in 2018.
Taylor never fully recovered from offseason back surgery, and struggled in his second NFL season. He caught just 26 passes for 215 yards, after catching 43 for 430 yards as a rookie in 2017.
“Extremely frustrating,” Taylor said. “It was a major struggle for me. I never went through a huge injury like that ever before in my life. I’ve never missed a game all growing up and just to struggle like that and not be moving the way I know I can move was really tough.
“So I kept that in the back of my head all through the offseason and I put in all the work that I possibly could. We will see what happens when the season gets here.”
Taylor confirmed Tuesday that he was healthy through the break, and that allowed him to work on his strength training. The 25-year-old is listed at 5-foot-8 and 180 pounds, and he said that getting stronger is a fundamental part of his preparation because of his stature.
“Whenever a guy my size doesn’t have an offseason to train and get ready for an NFL season, It’s tough to do,” Taylor said. “I’m not Julio Jones, who can just go walk out there and make stuff happen. So, the offseason is crucial for me. I know that so I’m glad to had this whole offseason under my belt to get work done.”
A change to the 49ers coaching staff kept Taylor motivated throughout the offseason, too.
Two-time First-Team All-Pro wide receiver Wes Welker now coaches Taylor and the rest of the 49ers wideouts. The comparisons between Welker and Taylor are easy to see, given their respective size and playing style, and Taylor wants to learn as much as he can from his new position coach.
“Just trying to soak everything that I possibly can from him.” Taylor said. “It’s just real cool having hime around. Just a Pro-Bowler who dominated the NFL like that, and having Miles Austin in the room as well it’s been really cool.
“It’s just the way, where he puts my thought process throughout running routes and how to think about routes in the middle of them and how to play off defenders. I think just those little tips here and there are what makes him different.”
With Welker in his ear and health on his side, Taylor expects big things from his third NFL season. Above all else, he never wants to go through what he felt in 2018 again.
“I feel good with where I’m at but every day is a new day to learn new things, so I’ve a long ways to go to reach my full potential,” Taylor said. “It’s something that I’m still constantly working at so. I’m ready to see what happens when the season gets here.”