Wisconsin Badgers tailback Jonathan Taylor declares for NFL draft

Wisconsin Badgers tailback Jonathan Taylor declares for NFL draft

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Jonathan Taylor

Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor announced Friday night that he is declaring for the NFL draft after three years with the Badgers. Taylor tallied 6,174 rushing yards and 55 total touchdowns in his career. He ranks second in rushing yards in Big Ten Conference history.

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.

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

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