Jonathan Taylor’s stellar career for the University of Wisconsin football team came to an end Friday night.
The junior running back tweeted a video stating that he’s forgoing his senior season with the Badgers and entering the NFL draft.
In three years at UW, Taylor blended speed, power, and fantastic vision as a runner to have one of the greatest college careers a running back has ever had. Taylor won two Doak Walker Awards as the nation’s top tailback, joining Texas’ Ricky Williams and Arkansas’ Darren McFadden as the only two-time winners.
"I've been able to live out a dream over the last three years by being a Badger, and now I'm excited to dive in and chase another dream of playing in the NFL," Taylor said in a release from UW. "I made it my goal to help raise the bar here, and thanks to my teammates, my coaches and everyone that supports us, I feel like we've been able to do that.
"I'm proud of what we've accomplished and I'll cherish the bonds that we've built. We’re a family, and I'll always be a Badger."
Taylor tallied 6,174 rushing yards and 55 total touchdowns in his career. He ranks second in rushing yards in Big Ten Conference history, and had the most yards for a player ever through his junior year. His 12 200-yard games rank second in Football Bowl Subdivision history, behind UW’s Ron Dayne.
With 2,003 yards this season, he became just the third player in FBS history with multiple 2,000-yard seasons, and he’s the only player in UW history to be named a unanimous first-team All-American twice.
“Jonathan is — he's everything that you would want to be in a teammate. And I've loved seeing his progression as a leader on this team, and unbelievable care for his teammates. That's where it starts. And unbelievable example of how you approach every day,” UW coach Paul Chryst said after the Badgers lost 28-27 to Oregon in the Rose Bowl on Wednesday.
“And it's impressive what he's done on the field, and it's incredibly impressive who he is and how he's done it, that’s more impressive to me.”
Taylor came to UW from Salem, N.J., with little fanfare — he was rated a three-star recruit by most recruiting services. But he quickly showed how explosive he could be in training camp, and made his way to the starting lineup by the second game. He proceeded to set the FBS freshman rushing yards record with 1,977, and helped Wisconsin go unbeaten in the regular season.
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Even as the team struggled in his sophomore campaign last season, Taylor dominated. He had a career-high 2,194 yards — an FBS record for a sophomore — and 16 touchdowns en route to winning his first Doak Walker Award.
He stayed consistent this season, took a career-high 320 carries, and led the NCAA with 26 total touchdowns. He became a dangerous receiver out of the backfield for the Badgers, hauling in 26 catches for 252 yards and five scores.
His rushing yardage between his sophomore and junior years, including bowls, amounted to 4,197 yards — the most in a two-year span in FBS history. He was a three-time first-team All-Big Ten pick.
Taylor was often lauded by coaches and teammates for his humble attitude. Even as his national profile raised and he was included in Heisman Trophy consideration this season, Taylor maintained his poise.
“He’s truly, truly the most humble person that I’ve ever came across. If you met him and didn’t know him, you wouldn’t think he is who he is. I’ve said that since Day One,” senior linebacker Chris Orr said of Taylor last month. “Definitely going to remember what he did on the field. Truly special to witness the greatest college running back ever firsthand. You worked against him for years, you see the work he puts in in the offseason. Proud of the type of leader that he has developed into. His work always spoke for itself, but him being more vocal this year definitely helped out a lot.”
ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. lists Taylor as his No. 2 running back in the 2020 draft class.
Since his breakout freshman season, Taylor drew comparisons to great UW backs of the past like Melvin Gordon and Dayne. He was on pace to break many of Dayne’s program and Big Ten records for rushing yards had he stayed a fourth season.
Taylor’s brilliant career will go down as one of the best in NCAA history, but his legacy with the Badgers will be about more than that, according to Chryst.
“What I will remember most about being around him is how he handled himself and how much he cared about his teammates,” Chryst said. “He is truly humble, always working to get better and cares a ton about this program. He gave everything he had to maximize his opportunity in college and I wish him all the best as he moves into the NFL."
NFL bound: Badgers tailback Jonathan Taylor receives outpouring of support after deciding to go pro
Recognizing the GOAT
Saturdays not as special
Saturday’s will not be the same— Jacob Norman🧀 (@NormanJacob14) January 4, 2020
Doing it all
One of the best, most well rounded RB’s I can ever remember seeing in college.— Emmanuel Acho (@thEMANacho) January 4, 2020
Best of luck bro!
There's always hope
😞 I’m so sad to see you leave, but it’s the best thing for your career, thank you for making the last 3 years of Wisconsin football amazing. Good luck in the NFL ❤️— KorverSZN (@KorverSZN_) January 4, 2020
Carrying the torch
Thank you for giving us three amazing years! You carried on an amazing tradition of RB at Wisconsin and I’ll enjoy watching you on Sundays— Jesse (@kberg86) January 4, 2020
Once a Badger, always a Badger
Such a class act. Get out there and REPRESENT!! Badger Nation is so proud of you!!! ❤️👐❤️— Patti (Jamaal Williams Stan Account) (@pdubsRN) January 4, 2020
An all-time great
thank you for everything!!! watching you at camp randall was the best thing ever. forever my all time favorite badger!! i’ll always be a fan, no matter what team drafts you!! good luck with everything!!❤️❤️— emma 🐝 (@emmabee_16) January 4, 2020
And even then...
Good Luck!! I will always root for you(Unless you are a Viking😜)— bat54603 (@jen54601) January 4, 2020
Class act, on and off the field
Thank you for three of the best years a running back has ever produced at the collegiate level, and thank you for being the best face of the program the Badgers could ask for. Excited to see what you do on Sundays.— Taylor Valentine (@TaylorValen9) January 4, 2020
At home among the greats
A cut above the rest
I’ve watched a lot of great football players come and go through Wisconsin. I can honestly say your my favorite Badger of all time. Your the 🐐— Marky Mark (@OGColtsfan1995) January 4, 2020
Ready for the next level
Time to get paid
Go get that money dude! Been fun watching you!— Chris Payne (@ChrisPayneInc) January 4, 2020
Eager to see what's next
Thank you for everything Jonathan! You’re one of the all time greats. Can’t wait to watch you out there on Sundays! Forever a Badger🙌🏼— Jake Maier (@gingerjake46) January 4, 2020
Plenty to be thankful for
Thank you for the hard work. Thank you for the representation of our state and our university. Thank you for the highlights and memories. Thank you for being a Badger! You’ll be missed.— David Johnson (@stoutguy04) January 4, 2020
Bring it on
Thank you 🙏🏼 time to bring it in the NFL 🙌— Roddy19 (@Roddy19) January 4, 2020
Setting a strong example
Smiling through it all
Always ready to break loose
Ty JT for making these last 3 years of college football exciting to watch I enjoyed every minute of watching the games this year cause you are so fun to watch all the highlight plays u make its like almost everyone of your runs is gonna be a highlight play. Gl on the draft bro— stephen wernsman (@High_Logiic) January 4, 2020
Packers still come first
Been an absolute ball cheering for you on Saturday. Fear cheering against you on a Sunday when your team is playing against the Pack. Good luck in the NFL! Go get it!— Mike Jones (@gbpackmike) January 4, 2020
I'm not crying, you're crying
B1G relief for some
I know there are 13 Big 10 schools that are very happy with your decision. One school is sad. Good luck at the next level.— Tim Monson (@TimMonson3) January 4, 2020
Standout at any level
Future pro bowler— Ronnie (@Ronnie78491491) January 4, 2020
Character shines through
Thank you for everything JT! Watching you play was admirable in so many ways. Not only was your athletic ability eye popping, but your character on and off the field made me really appreciate how special of a person you are. Best of luck to you at the next level! #OnWisconsin— Katie Giuffre (@ktgiu22) January 4, 2020
Growing up before our eyes
Thank you! It's been an absolute joy to watch you grow and I'm excited to see you on the next level.— Sean Cusack (@sccusack) January 4, 2020
Another in a line of greats
A true leader
Thank you for giving it your all JT...Best of luck in the NFL you’ll continue to lead by example. Keep making Wisconsin proud!— Jeff Carroll (@JeffreyJ2006) January 4, 2020
You were a joy to watch. Best RB to watch since Barry Sanders. Thank you very much and I will still follow you in the NFL. Good Luck.— Greg Buchanan (@goale35) January 4, 2020
Brimming with pride
While he hasn’t explicitly stated so, all signs point to the Rose Bowl being running back Jonathan Taylor’s final game with the University of …