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Colts’ star running back Jonathan Taylor delivers lesson in humility

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — If there is one subject that Colts All-Pro running back Jonathan Taylor doesn’t have time for, it’s talking about *his* stats.

Goals, milestones, and feats that put Taylor on this trajectory to becoming the NFL’s next generational running back are of no use to the third-year pro who was asked earlier at training camp about whether he anticipated a franchise-record setting 1,811-yard rushing campaign this past season.

“I saw the (Super Bowl) championship,” Taylor said. “You always prepare for a championship effort. If you don’t, I don’t think you work hard enough in the offseason if you don’t think that’s the goal or the expectation.”

This response, reflecting any suggestion of personal success directly back to the team, is textbook, Taylor. 

Ask anyone on the inside of the Colts organization, from the groundskeeping staff to General Manager Chris Ballard who traded up with Cleveland in the 2020 NFL Draft’s second round for the 41st overall selection to take the best ball carrier ever at the University of Wisconsin, and they will tell you this isn’t an act for cameras and tape recorders — Taylor is *only* interested in winning. 

My favorite example of this is Week 11 in Buffalo this past season following the most impressive regular season victory of the Frank Reich era in Indianapolis as the Colts decimated the eventual AFC finalist Bills 41-15. Taylor put together one of the top individual performances in NFL history, becoming the only player in NFL history to record 175-plus rushing yards, four rushing touchdowns, and one receiving touchdown in a single game.

Walking up the tunnel back to the visitors’ locker room flagged by national television cameras what did Taylor do? Shouted out his former high school football team in the tiny town of Salem, New Jersey for winning their first state championship in nearly four decades earlier that weekend.

“They motivated me today,” Taylor said before walking off to hug Colts Owner Jim Irsay. 

Again, that’s Jonathan Taylor. A prototype at running back in every sense on the field, and without question one of the league’s most humble superstars off of it. 

Earlier this summer, in a pair of stories that will soon be featured by ESPN and NFL Network this regular season, Taylor hosted a free youth football camp back at his blue-collar New Jersey hometown. His former Salem High School Football Coach Montrey Wright remains a close friend. 

Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathan Taylor (28) celebrates with Carson Wentz (2) after scoring against the Buffalo Bills. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus)

If Taylor isn’t willing to shine the spotlight on his stats, Irsay certainly is happy to campaign for the star back. At training camp, I asked Irsay about what is next for Taylor. 

“We couldn’t be more excited and Jonathan Taylor, everyone’s looking at him and seeing just what type of year he’s going to have this year,” Irsay said. “Of course, he could get 2,000 yards but I think Jonathan or all the other great players are mostly interested in winning a championship, winning the division, winning playoff games. That means more than anything else.”

According to Reich, yes, Taylor looked even better at training camp this summer than he did ahead of 2021. 

“I remember the first year thinking it took a little bit for him to kind of see blocking schemes to develop,” Reich said. “Now I feel like he kind of came in in midseason form there…Then as a route-runner out of the backfield, the work he’s done in one-on-ones and what we’ve done in the passing game – he’s a three-down back. He can do anything.”

As for those stats, here are the next records in reach for Taylor this season:

3,000 career rushing yards

  • With 20 rushing yards in Week 1 against Houston, Taylor (33 games) will become the second fastest Colt to reach the milestone (Edgerrin James – 30 games)

A 100+ yard rushing game

  • With (1) 100+ yard rushing game, Taylor will tie Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk with 14 career 100-yard games as a Colt. The only difference? Week 1 marks Taylor’s 33 career game. Faulk needed 77 games to reach that number.

A 150+ yard rushing, multi-touchdown game

  • With (1) 150+yard rushing multi-touchdown performance Taylor will up his career total to five such games with the Colts. The trio of Hall of Famers Eric Dickerson, Faulk, and James has six combined. 

Since Taylor is all about “team”, that is where we will finish. Colts Quarterback Matt Ryan shared on Wednesday ahead of Week 1 that he is “as motivated as he has ever been” at age 37. There is no predicting how this goes, but before the opening kickoff in Houston one subject isn’t in question. Ryan and Taylor, the two players the Colts need the most to be at their best this season, are willing to outwork anyone in the league at their position to win. 

And that gives the Colts a special opportunity in 2022.

“He’s (Ryan) a pro’s pro, so being able to take that leadership role is easy for him, it’s effortless and we want to be at our best for him,” Taylor said in August. “He demands that excellence…you know every time Matt (Ryan) comes into the building you know he is going to be laser-focused.”