N.J.'s fastest h.s. athlete
Rutgers commit Jonathan Taylor, N.J.'s fastest h.s. athlete, not the runner you'd expect
on October 03, 2016
Jonathan Taylor is the fastest high school athlete in the state.
The Salem High School senior earned that designation this past June at the NJSIAA’s Meet of Champions when he won the 100-meter dash.
So you would figure as a runner he would be slippery and evasive. But his style has always been physical – initiate contact, shed tacklers, keep going forward.
Taylor has the cut-back ability to make a defender miss, but he’s in his element when he’s going through the defense and not around them.
The 5-foot-11, 210-pounder ran for 190 yards and three touchdowns on Saturday in a 28-16 victory over Woodbury, a must-win game for a team hoping for a return to the South Jersey Group 1 playoffs. The Rams improved to 2-2.
The three scoring runs showed off all his skills – the speed, the balance, the toughness – that have made him a verbal commitment to Rutgers and one of the state’s best running backs.
His first run he showed a burst to the outside and appeared like he was about to be dragged down at the end of a 20-yard run. But a defender trying to pull him down from behind with hands on both shoulders fell off as Taylor re-gained his balance, then weaved his way to the end zone for a 66-yard run.
“This week we anticipated it to rain more and be muddy, so we worked on running hard, keeping our feet under us,” said Taylor. “I knew I had to keep driving my feet on contact. That was my best run because my running back coach harped all week on keeping our feet, finishing runs, so I was glad to make him proud today.”
His second TD showed off that sprinter’s speed, hitting a hole and into the clear once he broke through the line of scrimmage. The third was a 7-yard run where a defender latched onto his ankle at the 4-yard line and he hopped four times before diving into the end zone for the clinching score.
“That’s Jonathan Taylor, I knew if I got another touchdown I would seal the game,” said Taylor of his final run. “So I gave it my all to help my team seal the victory.”
Said coach Montrey Wright: “Man, Jon is a workhorse. Every time he runs the ball he has an attitude. We’re just blessed to have him back there doing what he does. He’s a leader.
“We tell him all the time he’s a great running back when he just goes north. He puts his shoulder down, gets to top speed and it’s pretty impressive. He’s a humble guy, he wants everybody to get the ball, but when he gets his carries he makes them count.”
Taylor said last week he was working on being more of a one-cut runner, though it’s not been a reach for him. In addition to the 190 yards he was credited for, he also had a 66-yard scoring run called back.
He ran left, encountered a slew of tacklers, cut back right, hit the edge and sprinted away from the defense, but a penalty erased the impressive run.
“You have to tackle, but he’s a great back, he made something out of nothing so many times,” said Woodbury coach Al Mailahn. “That kid’s getting three touchdowns called back a game. He’s good and he’s a class act too. He’s a nice young man.”
Flags on Taylor’s scoring runs have been an unfortunate theme this year. Wright said Taylor would have run for 1,000 yards through three games if he didn’t lose yardage on penalties.
“Penalties are going to happen, it’s the nature of the game,” said Taylor. “The best thing you can do is run back to the line and encourage them and tell them let’s do it again.”
As it is, Taylor still has 792 yards and nine touchdowns through four games. He ran for 344 yards in a Week 2 win at Burlington City.
“I don’t think of numbers, I think of letters. …. The letter ‘W’ for the team,” said Taylor. “The Group 1 championship is the only thing on my mind. This win got me back on track with my yardage, but really what it did was get us back on track as a team.”