LEXINGTON — Nickel and Bean coffee shop in downtown Lexington was the buzz of the village on Thursday afternoon.
Madison graduate Taylor Huff, a four-time high school All-American and two-time college All-American soccer player, was in town for a special food drive event. It was simple, bring a nonperishable food item and receive an autograph from the most decorated high school athlete to ever come out of Richland County.
The event was a smashing success as young kids lined the shop waiting for their chance to meet Huff, someone they all looked up to.
Huff was originally scheduled to pick up a check as part of Nickel and Bean’s Hometown Honoree program where the coffee shop donated a nickel of every cup of coffee sold to the honoree’s nonprofit organization of choice. Huff received a check from Stacie Elkhoury for $5,640.15 that will be donated to Matthew 25 Outreach, a Mansfield nonprofit dedicated to providing food for those in need.
So, instead of simply stopping by to pick up the check, Huff and Elkhoury thought it would be perfect to turn the day into a two-hour event where people could bring nonperishable food items to donate in return for an autographed photo or mini soccer ball.
Join us in welcoming our newest Seminole, 𝗧𝗮𝘆𝗹𝗼𝗿 𝗛𝘂𝗳𝗳! #OneTribe
▪️ 2022 Third Team All-American
▪️ 2022 All-SEC First Team
▪️ 2021 All-SEC Second Team
▪️ 2021 SEC Freshman of the Year
▪️ 2020 United Soccer Coaches National Player of the Year
▪️ 15 Goals, 12 Assists pic.twitter.com/5UtcT75W4x
“I was the hometown Nickel and Bean honoree and I was texting back and forth with Stacie (Elkhoury) and she thought we could do something fun when she gives me the check for the Matthew 25 Outreach,” Huff said. “I was super honored to be picked and be able to give back to my nonprofit. But to be able to do something for the community on top of that is an awesome opportunity.”
Huff was selected as Nickel and Bean’s hometown honoree in Oct. of 2021 and every cup of coffee that was sold for an entire calendar year has a nickel set aside for the donation. Matthew 25 Outreach is an organization special to Huff so it was the easy choice.
“In high school, I volunteered with Matthew 25 Outreach at Mansfield Senior High School where we packed up the food and handed it out to people,” Huff said. “That was an easy choice to give back to because it has done so much for me.”
The bar counter at Nickel and Bean was filling up fast with nonperishable food items to be donated and Huff was quickly running out of soccer balls and photographs to sign, which was amazing considering how quickly the event came together.
“This is just another God-given opportunity because it kind of just came to be out of the blue,” Huff said. “Within the last week, everything just came together. It is such a unique thing and I am just trying to do my part in giving back to the community that stands behind me and supports me in everything I do. I talked to so many different people over the last week at a local place and they talk to me about transferring to Florida State and it is so cool to see how social media can spread the news as well as see how people follow me and give me encouragement. To be able to give back to them is the least I could do.”
On Dec. 17, Huff announced she would be transferring from the University of Tennessee to Florida State University to continue her athletic career with the Seminoles. As a sophomore at Tennessee, Huff earned third team All-American and first team All-Southeastern Conference accolades. As a freshman, she was a second team All-SEC player and the SEC Freshman of the Year. It was just the latest in a long line of honors she piled up in high school which included All-American honors all four years and the 2020 United Soccer Coaches National Player of the Year as well as the 2020 Ohio Ms. Soccer award. Oh, and who could forget the 2020 Division II state championship?
During her two years at Tennessee, she scored 15 goals and handed out 12 assists. She is excited for a new opportunity at Florida State.
“For me, it was about trying Tennessee out and giving it a chance for the season, but at the end of the day, it is about doing what is best for my mental health,” Huff said. “I became unhappy at Tennesse and that is what it came down to. It was the hardest decision I ever had to make because I pride myself on not making selfish decisions and hurt other people. I do love my Tennesse coaches and teammates. They are some of the best people I have ever met. It was hard, but at the end of the day, I have to do what is best for me.”
She will fit right in at a very successful program piloted by Brian Pensky, who recruited Huff to Tennessee and coached her during her freshman season before taking the job at Florida State.
“They won the National Championship in 2021 and made it to the College Cup which is the Final 4 this year,” Huff said. “They are incredible and known for soccer. As soon as I stepped on campus and said I was there to play soccer, they told me I must be really good. So it is a top-notch program with a great reputation. Brian (Pensky) took over for Mark Krikorian and Mark Krikorian built that program with elite soccer players from all over the world. So it is exciting to be able to play with them.”
In the meantime, Huff plans to continue her community outreach work and hopes to do more this summer with the sport and the community.
“I am trying to plan something back here so I can give back to the community,” Huff said. “I am all for nonprofits and giving back to other people. I really like planning things and would love to plan a tournament and things like this. Hopefully, this summer, I can do more. I would really love to do a camp or soccer tournaments. Those are huge goals of mine and I would love nothing more than to give back to the community.”