MADISON – Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor wanted to come in and make an impact for the Badgers. He just didn’t know when he would be able to.
“I always knew that I could make an impact,” Taylor told reporters. “It was just a matter of time of once I learned everything and once I just caught up to the speed of the game and got into the whole college flow.”
Taylor has certainly gotten into the flow of the collegiate game. He has not only been the best players on Wisconsin’s offensive unit this season, but one of the country’s best, as well. He’s currently third in rushing yards in the entire country with 1,657. That’s impressive for anyone, let alone a player that was dominating high school opponents 12 months ago.
He’s gone from dominating high school teams to tearing up the Big Ten in a short time, and he’s been deservedly recognized for his efforts. Tuesday, he was named a finalist for the Doak Walker award. That honor goes to the country’s most outstanding running back and has every year since 1990. A true freshman has never won the award and Taylor is trying to become the first. The other two finalists are Saquon Barkley of Penn State and Bryce Love of Stanford.
Taylor not only could become the first freshman to win the Doak Walker, but also become the Big Ten record holder for most Freshman of the Week awards won. After the Badgers defeating Michigan in week 12 he was honored by the conference for the seventh time. That tied him with J.T. Barrett of Ohio State for the most ever. A strong performance against a Minnesota defense that has allowed 4.6 yards per carry on the season would likely give him his record-breaking eighth award.
“I was definitely surprised, just getting that many Big Ten Freshman of the Week [awards], I didn’t know what to say, I was just like, ‘that’s crazy’,” Taylor said when he was told that he had the opportunity to break Barrett’s record this week. “It came down to me focusing every week and just doing the best that I can. Focusing on how can I help the team this week, how can I help the team get out with a W?”
He’s done more than just help the team, at times, he’s carried the team.
To say that his focus is on breaking the Big Ten ecord would be a disservice to Taylor and the rivalry that Minnesota and Wisconsin share on the field.
“It should be fun, but we definitely talk about respecting the rivalry, so we’re going in and trying to give them our best shot,” Taylor said.
Taylor giving Minnesota his best shot could catapult him further on to the national scene than he already is. He’s already had three games where he has gone over 200 yards, and two more over 150 yards. Add another one to that list and the possibilities are endless.
He’s impressed those across the country, obviously, with the national attention he’s gotten. He’s also impressed teammates of his, including fellow freshman Danny Davis.
“It’s been crazy, man,” Davis said. “Some of the stuff he does is unreal. You continue to do that, and this is just a stage for him to continue to keep getting better as the years progress. I’m excited to play with him.”
Taylor’s sights aren’t only on breaking Barrett’s record and being a Walker finalist, however.
“Every kid dreams about winning the Heisman,” Taylor said. “Coming in that wasn’t my main, I always talking about how my focus was just staying ready and just being ready whenever my number was called.”
Wisconsin has had a great history of backs to win both the Walker and the Heisman. Ron Dayne, Montee Ball, and Melvin Gordon have all won the Walker award, with Dayne doubling as the Heisman winner. While it’s uncertain, if not unlikely that Taylor joins them this year, it would surprise no one to find Taylor among those names by the end of his time at Wisconsin.