MADISON HEIGHTS — Kendel Taylor remembers having “high expectations” when he entered Bishop Foley High School as a freshman.

“I was just a little kid,” he says. “It was rough.”

But he was tough.

Athletic director Brian Hassler had a front row seat tracking Taylor’s growth. 

“The progress he made from his freshman year to his senior year, the maturity he gained, was lights out,” Hassler said.

The lights were on Taylor all senior year long. None shone more brightly than on May 13, when he was named the Detroit Athletic Club’s Male Athlete of the Year, an award the DAC has bestowed for 23 years to a high school student who demonstrates excellence in athletics, a grade-point average of 3.0 or higher, and a resume of school leadership, community involvement and volunteerism.

It was the second year in a row that a CHSL male athlete won the award. Dearborn Divine Child lacrosse and football star Aiden Hutchinson won it in 2018.

Madeline Chinn of Pontiac Notre Dame Prep (volleyball) and Jansen Eichenlaub of Bloomfield Hills Marian (soccer, track) were among six nominees for the 2019 female award.

Taylor received a $5,000 scholarship; Chinn and Eichenlaub $1,000.

“It was extraordinary,” said Taylor's father, Karl. “Wow. The award was for academics as well as athletics. It shows that success gets rewarded. It was amazing that Kendel was nominated.”

About Kendel attending Bishop Foley, Karl said, “The Catholic school system is the best in the country, without a doubt. You can get a good education at a smaller school as well as at a Division 1 or larger school.

“Kendel had high expectations, but he surpassed them.”

Hassler went over Taylor's resume, which was submitted for the award. He had a 3.5 average. “He really worked hard for the success he had.”

He was an “integral part” as a group leader in the school’s annual volunteer effort, “Be the Difference Day.” More than 400 students, faculty and parents visited 20 sites in 11 communities across Metro Detroit, tackling everything from street cleanups to work at a rehabilitation center, local animal rescues, child care centers, a cancer support community, health care centers, and a fire station. Their combined service totaled 185,000 hours.

Kendel’s brother, Kaylan, graduated from Bishop Foley in 2013 and hitched up with the Marines. “I look up to him. He guides me. He’s my mentor,” Kendel said.

Military service runs deep in the Taylor family. Three uncles joined the Army, two still in Special Forces.

“The Navy has always been my dream,” Kendel says. His long-range ambition is to join the Marines after graduating from the Navy and make a career of it. His father says he’s also thinking of trying out for the Navy SEALs.

His dream was realized in December when he announced his commitment to attend the Naval Academy on a football scholarship.

The Navy announcement was part of “a crazy year,” Karl says. “It seemed that almost every month there was some award or something.”

That happens when you are one of those rare high school athletes who play more than one sport. Taylor played four years in four varsity sports — football, basketball, track and lacrosse — earning 16 varsity letters.

In the fall, Taylor received All State and All Catholic honors for his prowess on the gridiron. He led the state in rushing with 2,344 yards and 34 touchdowns, which are school season records. He also holds the school’s career mark with 3,495 yards running and 51 touchdowns.

“Kendel is one of the most coachable kids you could ever have,” Bishop Foley football coach Brian Barnes says. “He’s a raw talent.”

In wrestling, Taylor was 37-4 and won the state Division 3 individual championship at 189 pounds. Coach Berney Gonzales says, “It was an honor to watch him develop year after year into a top-notch athlete.”

In track, he was the CHSL Division C-D 200- and 400-meter dashes champ, and shot put winner with a throw of 47 feet, 10 inches, a school record.

Taylor reports to the Naval Academy on July 22.

At the December event where he announced his commitment to Navy, the observation was made that the grind is demanding for a student who also is an athlete. What about the rigorous routine of being a cadet, too?

“You’ll be told all the time what to do,” brother Kaylan said. “Physically, Kendel can handle it. It’ll be the mental aspect that will be the challenge.”

His mother Kozetta has faith. “Kendel can do anything he puts his mind to. He will persevere.”

After all, mother knows best.

Contact Don Horkey at