Justin Taylor set one goal for himself after his junior season ended: work harder to get noticed by more college coaches.
The Nazareth junior started speed training, doing other workouts and focused on his diet a week after the Roadrunners lost in the Class 5A quarterfinals in mid-November. College coaches came back to Nazareth in the spring and saw how Taylor transformed himself into a better athlete.
Wisconsin rewarded Taylor for his hard work with a scholarship on May 11 and Taylor committed two days later in Madison.
“It’s so, so, so, very rewarding,” Taylor said. “There was a lot of sweat, tears and blood put into this. It was a great feeling when I first got the offer and then when I committed, it was a better feeling.”
Taylor thought he was close to a decision before Wisconsin offered. He had a Power-Five offer from Kansas State and other offers from Navy, Bowling Green, Toledo, Kent State, Ball State, Miami (Ohio), Northern Iowa, Eastern Illinois, Wyoming, Army, Western Illinois, Western Michigan, Air Force, Colorado State, Ohio and Holy Cross.
The junior had an idea that he would jump on the Badgers’ opportunity as soon as it came, but he wanted to visit campus first. Taylor and his family visited Madison on May 13 and he instantly felt a connection.
Taylor was impressed with the staff, campus and academics Wisconsin offered, and he said the Wisconsin coaching staff made his family feel like they were home.
Taylor met with head coach Paul Chryst and knew he didn’t need to wait to commit.
“We connected really well, he and my family connected really well,” Taylor said. “It was the perfect timing for me to make my verbal then.”
Rivals ranks Taylor as a three-star athlete, 16th-best in the state, while 247Sports Composite gave Taylor a three-star athlete ranking, 26th in Illinois. Wisconsin plans to play Taylor as a defensive back in college, primarily at safety. He could also switch to wide receiver if the Badgers need him to play there.
Taylor finished with 12 total tackles his junior season, with one tackle for loss. He also rushed for 213 yards on 40 carries, scoring four touchdowns and caught 44 passes for 794 yards and seven touchdowns. Taylor also returned a punt for a touchdown.
Nazareth coach Tim Racki has used Taylor’s talents in all three phases and knows that once Taylor’s work ethic combines with the resources Wisconsin can offer, he’ll reach another level.
“He’s so versatile,” Racki said. “He’s going to fit in really well. Knowing Wisconsin’s staff, in terms of development, that’s a high level training and nutrition, and he’s into that as it is. Once he gets to all that elite training and nutrition, I think he’s going to blow up.”
Taylor has set another goal for himself: he wants to dominate his senior season and play as a freshman at Wisconsin. He’s watched his hard work pay off up to this point, so he’s not going to stop now.
“There’s definitely no foot being let up on the gas,” Taylor said. “I’m definitely keeping my foot on the gas and working harder than I ever had in the past. This is where the real work starts.”