For years, Jonathan Taylor has dreamed about getting the opportunity to give back to the community that helped raised him.
And now, perhaps more than ever, Taylor realized, is the time to act.
The Indianapolis Colts rookie running back recently launched his "Be The Change" program, which will provide scholarships for college-bound Black student-athletes graduating from his alma mater, Salem High School, in Salem, N.J.
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"Coming from a small town of Salem, N.J., where everyone knows everyone and you have the support of the community, one thing I wanted to do was give back to that community, give back to the kids there, because I know how powerful that would be," Taylor told Colts.com in a recent interview.
Taylor was a star student-athlete at Salem High School, a small, predominantly black public high school in western New Jersey, where he was a First-Team All-State performer on the football field and one of the state's top track athletes.
And even as the accolades piled up and the full-ride scholarship offers began pouring in, Taylor said it was important to him to stay grounded and appreciative of those who were playing any sort of role in his success, from the custodians to the lunch ladies all the way up to the principal.
It's those qualities, Taylor said, that will be most important as he chooses the recipients of his new scholarship.
"We don't want to have student-athletes have that persona that, 'You're an athlete, so you should get just get things handed to you,'" Taylor said. "We want to let kids know that, 'Hey, no matter what position you're in, you have to work for it, day in and day out.
"I think one of the biggest things we look for is character, and we'll have a really high emphasis on this," Taylor said. "It'll be heavily looked at, just because you want high-character kids to know that it goes a long way."
Taylor's was able to parlay his experiences at Salem High School into an All-American football career at the University of Wisconsin, where in just three seasons he established himself as one of the best running backs in college football history.
Back in April, the Indianapolis Colts moved up three spots to select Taylor in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft.
Since that time, protests have raged across the country demanding an end to systemic racism and police brutality — subjects that have only heightened Taylor's sense of duty to help the Black community.
The "Be The Change" program is a first step, he said.
"This was already in the forefront of my mind, but with everything going on right now, this just expedited it," Taylor said. "I just thought that this would be the time to give those kids a little piece of encouragement — a little push, in a sense — and say, 'Hey, we're going to provide you with opportunities. You're still going to have to put the work in because that's how you get where you want to go in life, but there's definitely opportunities here if you're willing and able to put the work in."