In his four seasons at Boise State, Taylor Loffler's football career didn't unfold nearly the way he had planned.
Plagued by injuries and a lack of playing time, the KSS grad's prospects of a pro career had pretty much vanished and, along with it, his passion for the game.
But all of that changed this fall when Loffler joined the UBC Thunderbirds for his final year of university football.
"It's definitely been a great experience for me to be here, to get back playing again and enjoying the game," Loffler said of his move back to B.C. "I'm back to loving it again, like I did when I was a kid."
The 23-year-old safety has played more like a man possessed than a kid this year, doling out punishing hits and leading both the T-Birds and the Canada West conference with 42 tackles during the regular season.
He added 11.5 more tackles in UBC's upset win over Calgary in the Canada West final two weeks ago and for his exploits was named the conference's defensive player of the week.
Loffler has been a key figure all season in the Thunderbirds' march to their first Vanier Cup final appearance since 1997.
UBC will take on the Montreal Carabins on Saturday in Quebec City for the CIS national football title.
"I feel fortunate to be in this position and I'm really looking forward to it," Loffler said of Saturday's season finale. "Montreal is a great team, but we've showed we can hang with the best, so we'll give it everything we have."
T-Birds head coach Blake Nill, who at the time was at the University of Calgary, tried to recruit Loffler for the Dinos' program in 2010.
Five years later, Loffler couldn't be happier to be back in Canada playing for Nill, as the T-Birds knock on the door for national university football's ultimate prize.
"It's been an amazing experience, to be able to come in and make a contribution," said the 6-foot-3, 218-pound Loffler. "In talking to Blake going in, I just wanted to help the team and do the best I could with the opportunities he gave me.
"Just to see the way the guys have pulled together, to go from 2-and-6 last year to this, has been incredible. It's been fun."
B.C. high school football's player of the year in 2010, Loffler showed bluechip potential coming out of KSS and was recruited by Boise State.
But an ACL injury suffered during his senior year with the Owls came back to saddle him once again in Idaho.
In four seasons south of the border, an unfulfilled Loffler played in just 12 games with Boise and needed a new lease on his football life. UBC turned out to be the ideal place to find it.
"I wasn't getting noticed, I just didn't feel like myself, I had the injury problems, and football just wasn't fun," he said. "I really wanted to play again and this was kind of my last chance to get a shot at pro.
"Having a chance to come out here and play a key role, I've got my passion back and I'm feeling great."
From his perspective as UBC's defensive coordinator, James Colzie III said Loffler has done everything and more the T-Birds could have hoped for.
"Taylor's the quarterback on our defence, nothing fazes him, he's so poised you can tell he's played in some big-time games," said Colzie. "He's extremely physical and he's such a presence out there. Other teams have to find where number 10 is on the field, and even when they do, it's tough to stop him.
"In reality, he's one of the best players in the country," said Colzie. "He's going to go on and play at the pro level and I believe he's going to be a very good pro."
And not surprisingly, the CFL has been taking notice of Loffler. He's been contacted by several teams and is a good bet to have his named called early at next spring's CFL draft.
So, it would seem, Loffler's pro dream has been officially rejuvenated.
"I want to make the most of my last college game, and then hopefully something will come out of the CFL draft," he said. "You sure can't count on that, but I've talked to some teams that have liked what they've seen, so that's promising. It's what I want to do."
(Photo: KSS grad Taylor Loffler will play with the UBC Thunderbirds in this Saturday's Vanier Cup national university final against the Montreal Carabins in Quebec City. — Image Credit: Richard Lam/UBC)