Born: January 19, 1999
Jonathan Taylor Jr. was born January 19, 1999 in Salem to Elizabeth and Jonathan Taylor Sr., a former college basketball player. Jonathan did not have his father’s size, but he made up for that with tremendous speed. He didn't play organized sports until he played youth league football as a 6th grader.
At Salem High, Jonathan combined quickness and power in a 5’11” frame and became a 1,000-yard rusher for Montrey Wright’s Rams in his junior year. All that he lacked was the explosive burst that enabled him to produce long runs. A scout from the University of Wisconsin, John Settle, suggested to Jonathan that he run track in the spring. That spring, Jonathan became the state 100-meters champion.
As a senior in 2016, Jonathan smashed school record originally set by Lydell Mitchell in the 1960s when he ran for 2,815 yards and 37 touchdowns. That broke Corey Clement’s state record. The Rams made it to the South Jersey Group 1 finals. Jonathan finished his high-school career with 4,642 rushing yards and 51 touchdowns. As a senior in the spring of 2017, he won his second straight New Jersey 100-meter sprint title.
Jonathan had always dreamed of playing football for Rutgers, but during his fantastic senior season, recruiters from top-ranked programs began knocking on his door. He changed his previous verbal commitment to stay in state and switched to Wisconsin. Jonathan was an honor roll student and scored well on standardized tests—high enough so that he reportedly turned down a chance to attend Harvard.
Paul Chryst’s Badgers were loaded at running back and coming off an 11-win season, so Jonathan didn’t’t figure to see much playing time. However, on the first day of practice, Jonathan took a hand-off the length of the field for a touchdown and then did the same on a short pass. Jonathan got 9 touches in the opening game of the season and ran for 87 yards. In the next game, he ran for 223 yards, which pretty much settled who would be Wisconsin’s featured back in 2017. By mid-season, after tearing through the Nebraska defense for 249 yards, Jonathan was part of the Heisman conversation despite being a true freshman. He eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark in the team’s seventh game, equaling an NCAA record shared by six other backs, including P.J. Hill, who reached that plateau for the Badgers in 2005.
Jonathan finished his first college season with 1,977 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns. No freshman had ever run for that many yards, and Jonathan’s season ranked second all-time to another Wisconsin legend, Ron Dayne, who ran for 2,109 in 1996. Jonathan finished sixth in the Heisman voting and the Badgers went 13–1, including an Orange Bowl win over Miami. Their only loss was to Ohio State in the Big Ten title game.
Jonathan started his sophomore season with a bang, running for 253 yards in the second game, against New Mexico. The Badgers, however, fell short of their lofty expectations in 2018 and struggled to win consistently. Jonathan continued to pile up yards, including 321 in a triple-overtime win over Purdue. Wisconsin finished 8–5, including another bowl win over Miami, and Jonathan was the NCAA rushing champion, with 2,194 yards, which also broke Dayne’s school record. This time Jonathan finished ninth in the Heisman tally. He was a first-team All-American and winner of the Doak Walker Award as the nation’s top back.
Jonathan’s junior campaign saw him reach the 2,000-yard mark again. Among his noteworthy performances was a 200-yard effort against Michigan (the first ever for a Badger vs. the Wolverines) and set a new FBS record with his 12th 200-yard game in a win over Purdue. Wisconsin lost its final two games—the Big Ten Championship to Ohio State and the Rose Bowl to Oregon, finishing 10–4. Jonathan tied for the NCAA lead with 2,003 yards and 21 rushing touchdowns, with J.K. Dobbins of the Buckeyes. He was named a first-team All-American for the second year in a row. He also repeated as the Walker award winner.
Jonathan decided to skip his senior season and enter the NFL Draft. In three college seasons he amassed 6,174 rushing yards—fourth all-time and the most ever through a junior season—and 50 rushing touchdowns. He also caught 42 passes for another 407 yards and 5 touchdowns. The Indianapolis Colts took Jonathan in the second round.
In his second pro game, Jonathan shredded the the Vikings for 101 yards in a 28–11 win. He gained strength as the season wore on and, despite a November Covid scare, he surpassed 1,000 yards with a 253-yard performance on the season's final day. This was no throwaway game—the Colts needed their 28–14 win over the Jaguars to make the playoffs. Jonathan was named Rookie of the Month for December. He finished the year with 1,169 yards and 11 touchdowns and fumbled only once in a rookie season that met every expectation.