Taylor of Salem is South Jersey Times Boys Athlete of the Year

SJT Boys Athlete of the Year
Posted on 07/01/2017
Jonathan TaylorJonathan Taylor of Salem is South Jersey Times Boys Athlete of the Year, 2017

As he was growing up, Jonathan Taylor always suspected he was a fastest runner than all the other kids his age.

He found out for sure in seventh grade.

“I really started to see the difference when I started playing football on the midget team,” he said. “Sometimes they would put me in on third-and-12 and give me the ball on a sweep and I would go 65 yards for a touchdown.

“In my mind, all I was doing was running for the end zone. It wasn’t anything planned out. But everyone kept saying, ‘You’re really fast,’ so I started taking it seriously. By the time I got to high school, I became really determined and started working on my game.”

Taylor’s combination of breathtaking speed and undeniable work ethic culminated in a special senior year at Salem. After setting a modern-day state record in football with 2,815 yards rushing, he captured his second straight NJSIAA Meet of Champions title in the 100 meters during spring track.

He also scored 35 touchdowns and led Salem to the South Jersey, Group 1 final in football. In track, he added state championships in the 100 and 4x100 relay.

For all of his achievements, Taylor has been named South Jersey Times Boys Athlete of the Year for 2017.

“I was very excited about the seasons I had in football and track and the things we accomplished with both teams,” he said. “It was a great year, a great way to leave high school.”

Taylor, who left for the University of Wisconsin earlier this month, hopes to continue running track in college. But his main focus will be football, as he looks to continue a long line of successful running backs in the program.

That lineage includes a pair of South Jersey greats in Heisman Trophy winner Ron Dayne, an Overbrook graduate, and Glassboro product Corey Clement, who finished his career at Wisconsin last season.

“I definitely think I can (follow in their footsteps),” Taylor said. “The experience on that coaching staff is unbelievable. Those guys know how to take someone, no matter what their style is, and develop them into the best player they can be. They bring in some super talented guys, but it’s the coaching experience that helps each player get to his peak.”

Taylor was in contact last fall with Clement — now trying to make the Philadelphia Eagles as an undrafted free agent — when Taylor broke Clement's South Jersey single-season rushing record. He also met Dayne during his visit to Wisconsin.

“I spoke to him face to face when I went there for my visit,” he said. “I got to take a picture with him and we talked about his time at UW and what it meant to him. It was a great experience being in front of a Heisman Trophy winner.”

Salem football coach Montrey Wright has no doubt Taylor will leave his mark at Wisconsin just like Dayne and Clement, and it all comes back to the commitment to athletics and the classroom.

“I witnessed all his hard work and efforts that contributed to his ability to break records in football and track while maintaining his studies in the international baccalaureate program,” Wright said. “He is an inspiration to his peers, the community and the high school family.”

As excited as he is to start playing football at Wisconsin, Taylor is also embracing the academic challenges that are coming. He plans to major in biochemistry.

“One day I’d like to work in a lab, after football is done,” he said. “I’m a science guy. I’ve been a science guy ever since I got to high school. That’s just something I felt like I wanted to go into and I’m hoping one day to earn a living that way.”