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Jonathan Taylor On Splitting Reps, Ball Security, Ivy League Possibilities

Indianapolis Colts rookie running back Jonathan Taylor today spoke to local reporters via video conference call. What were the top takeaways about how he’ll approach splitting carries with Marlon Mack, getting schooled in ball security by Tom Rathman and more?

INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis Colts rookie running back Jonathan Taylor today spoke to local reporters via video conference call. What were the top takeaways about how he'll approach splitting carries with Marlon Mack, getting schooled in ball security by Tom Rathman and more?

You can catch that entire session above, but here are some highlights:

» It's not about the number of reps he gets; Taylor is focused on making what reps he does get count: The Colts already had a solid, established starter at the running back position in Marlon Mack when they decided to move up three spots in the second round of this year's NFL Draft to take Taylor.

Throughout the offseason, head coach Frank Reich and offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni have made reference to the "1-1" punch they feel they have at running back with both Mack and Taylor now in the mix, which presents a good problem to have if you're the Colts: most formations call for just one running back to be on the field at the time, so how are they going to make sure they are getting the most out of both of their starter-quality backs throughout each ballgame?

For his part, Taylor isn't sweating how many reps he'll be getting on any given gameday. What he does know, however, is that when he is called upon, he needs to make those snaps count, whether he's a featured runner, helping protect the quarterback or being involved as a pass catcher out of the backfield.

"I think it's another level of focus here," Taylor said. "I mean, you think about in college, you're already focused, especially when you're in your second, third year of college you're kind of ready, you know what to expect. I mean, it's even another level of focus at this level. I can just already tell — you don't count the reps, you make the reps count. So whenever you're in, you're on. Make sure you're 100 percent.

"I mean, think about it: you're a professional now," Taylor continued. "When people are at their jobs — I know my mother is at her job; she likes to do everything correctly to a T, as perfect as possible. And I'm taking the same approach here. I mean, whenever my number is called, I'm making sure that I'm on at all times because it's my job now."

» Taylor is already appreciating running backs coach Tom Rathman's passion for ball security: Spend just five minutes at any Colts practice and you'll inevitably hear Rathman loudly telling all ballcarriers, "Squeeze it!" just about every time they get the football in their hands. The former legendary San Francisco 49ers fullback means business when it comes to proper ball security.

It's something Taylor hopes to take full advantage of now that he's reached the NFL. Taylor had a whole lot of carries in his three seasons at Wisconsin — 926 of them to be exact — and had 18 fumbles, including eight in his freshman year, four the following season and six as a junior.

That fumble rate — about 1.9 percent — certainly isn't a red flag, especially considering Derrick Henry, the NFL's leading rusher in 2019, had five fumbles on 303 carries last year, or a rate of about 1.7 percent. But Taylor is well aware of a need to improve in this area overall, and he's already getting a good lesson from Rathman in virtual team meetings.

"He is a real stickler on it," Taylor said. "We're going through film and there are times where you think it is good ball security and you're looking at the guy and you're like, 'That's good ball security,' and he is saying, 'I think he actually could've been able to have it in this position a little bit better or even more. See this right here? You can eliminate that right there.'"

The Colts' running backs as a group had just one fumble last season, and Taylor is going to do his best to maintain that level of excellence.

"Just in his knowledge of the game and of him coaching me up, I'm real excited – just about putting in the work as well," Taylor said of Rathman. "I mean especially now through these Zoom meetings there is nothing you can really do besides you've got to go out there and you've got to record. You've got to show him film. I think that is the biggest thing because I'm not there to get those physical reps so I want him to coach me up. I want those coaching points. So I'm doing everything in my power to get those coaching points anyway I can without physically being there in his presence."

» Taylor had unprecedented success running the ball at Wisconsin, but he almost went a completely different route: In just three seasons, Taylor ran the ball 926 times for 6,174 yards and 50 touchdowns; his rushing yards rank No. 6 all-time among FBS players and is No. 2 all-time among the Big Ten.

But can you imagine the damage Taylor could've had running the ball in the Ivy League Conference?

Taylor said he actually got accepted into Yale and Harvard, and visited Yale on three different occasions before ultimately deciding to play for the Badgers.

"It was nice. I enjoyed myself every time I went up there," Taylor said with a smile. "That was tough. It was a tough decision to decide between Ivy League and the University of Wisconsin. That was a tough choice."

Deciding to pursue his NFL dreams after his junior season has left Taylor with about 20 credits to go before earning his degree. He said he has no problem making that up in due time.

"Those are like a semester and two or one summer class," Taylor said. "School has never been a problem for me. I enjoy going to school. I enjoy learning. I always did so that was kind like, 'I can do that. That's not a problem for me."

Get your first look at running back Jonathan Taylor after he was selected 41st overall by the Indianapolis Colts.

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