Jonathan Taylor’s sprint to early stardom

  • BY Lisa Byington
  • 10.16.17

The folks in Madison should be awfully appreciative of a cinder high school track back in New Jersey.

Training on Salem High School’s home track might have been one of the biggest reasons Jonathan Taylor is now playing football at Wisconsin.

The freshman running back had some lukewarm interest from Wisconsin initially. The Badger coaching staff admits they just didn’t feel like he had enough of the breakaway speed and explosion. The message came through loud and clear.

Taylor ran track for the first time in his life during his junior and senior years in high school. The Salem track coaches were impressed by his dedication to get faster and stronger.

Mission accomplished for both.

He gained 10 pounds from his junior to senior year, and he knocked off more than four-tenths of a second from his 100-meter time during that same span. He became Jersey’s fastest athlete for his junior and senior years. Wisconsin, and some other schools took notice.

Below is a video of his fastest race from last May’s New Jersey sectionals. His time was 10.49, an improvement from the 10.9 he recorded as a junior. The 10.49 still remains one of the fastest times in Jersey track history, even better than the recorded races for former Wolverine and Jersey-native Jabrill Peppers. This video was provided by Salem High School and John Bacon, Taylor’s high school track coach.

Taylor Track ’17

Dayne on Taylor

Ron Dayne texts Jonathan Taylor every week with one simple message.

“Make sure your guys up front are happy,” he laughed while talking to me on the field at Camp Randall.

The Heisman Trophy running back knows where a back’s bread is buttered.

Taylor is now 14 yards away from a 1000 for the season, and tying the fastest for an FBS true freshman to get to that mark.┬áDayne said he appreciates all that Taylor can offer, as a runner or receiver, and he’s more than happy to see Taylor approaching some of Dayne’s freshman rush records.

“I actually probably appreciate more of what he’s doing right now than some of his teammates,” Dayne said. “You just don’t realize what a record means while you’re in college. I know I didn’t appreciate it as much when I was playing.”

And the ole big Badger back’s favorite run for Taylor?

“The one where he plows over everyone,” Dayne laughed.


about the author

Lisa Byington has worked for BTN, FOX, CBS, Turner, and ESPN. She earned her BSJ and MSJ from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. She also played four years of basketball and two years of soccer for the Wildcats.