Home-schooled: Cape Central's Dony'e Taylor feels at right at home in choosing SEMO football

Cape Central senior wide receiver Dony'e Taylor (1) runs with the ball against Jackson this past season in Jackson.
Jacob Wiegand ~ Southeast Missourian

There were several aspects in a college football program that Cape Central senior Dony’e Taylor was looking for as he made his decision on where to play over the next five years.

He wanted to be part of a winning program.

He wanted to be at a place that emphasized education.

He wanted to play Division I football.

And lastly, but perhaps most importantly, he wanted to remain close to home.

Signing to play for Southeast Missouri State checks every one of those boxes, so Taylor will join the Redhawks on Thursday at 11 a.m. at Cape Central.

“I love the city of Cape Girardeau,” Taylor said. “It’s been my hometown my whole life and this means that I can be close to my mother (Tamara Criddle).”

Therein lies the kicker to this story.

Dony’e is the oldest of five children being raised by a single mother and he has learned the importance of family and helping each other through life.

“I’m proud of him,” Criddle said. “He’s always been exceptional. He’s a hard worker.”

You have no idea how accurate that last statement is.

Taylor not only is completing his high school education, but he also works part-time at a McDonald’s in Cape Girardeau.

He helps with household chores daily, he trains to prepare for not just his senior season on the Tiger track team, but also for next year with the Redhawks, and due to his mother working third shift, he also helps watch the house and younger children in it.

Oh, and he has homework to complete nightly on top of that.

“Now that he knows what grades it takes to go to college,” Criddle said of Taylor’s late growth as a student, “he comes home and does his homework. He does his chores. He goes to work. He goes to the gym and then comes back home and does more homework.

“He is really focused.”

That maturity and diligence showed last fall on the Tigers.

After Cape Central won just one game in 2018, Taylor was part of a dedicated senior class that helped the Tigers win seven games in 2019.

“He has a lot to offer,” Cape Central coach Kent Gibbs said of Taylor. “If he wasn’t the hardest worker, he was one of the hardest workers on our team.

“He was a good team leader.”

Taylor was an all-district first-team selection as a wide receiver last fall and second-team as a defensive back.

He was also a first-team all-region selection, as well as a member of the second-team all-state squad.

A big reason for the Redhawks’ success under seventh-year coach Tom Matukewicz has been the emphasis on playing for each other. That sense of “family” appealed to Taylor because that is what he experienced last season under Gibbs, who took over the program less than a year ago.

“The brotherhood was there with that team,” Taylor said. “In my junior year, I didn’t feel that.

“The results happened because of the love on the field.”

Matukewicz has shown confidence in Taylor to compete for Southeast based on his size and athleticism, and Taylor said that is something that Gibbs showed, as well.

“Coach Gibbs really believes in you,” Taylor said. “I never had anyone believe in me so much.”

Taylor said that the Southeast coaches envision him as a wide receiver – after putting on 30-40 pounds of muscle – or perhaps at cornerback. Wherever the Redhawk coaches tell Taylor to line up, he’ll be fine with that.

“I love playing football,” Taylor said. “I’ll play anywhere. I don’t care where they put me.”

Taylor spent time Saturday with the Southeast coaches and their emphasis on education (he wants to be a physical therapist who works with athletes) appealed to both he and his mother.

“What I did like about SEMO,” Criddle said, “was when I went on the visit with (Dony’e), they really push education first.”

Family, education, and football; Taylor will be doused in everything he ever sought with the Redhawks.

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