Dylan Buell/Getty Images
The Wisconsin Badgers disappointed this season after going 13-1 with an Orange Bowl victory last year, but the performance of running back Jonathan Taylor was a silver lining.
Taylor won the 2018 Doak Walker Award on Thursday as the most outstanding running back in the country. The sophomore defeated fellow finalists Darrell Henderson of Memphis and Travis Etienne of Clemson.
ESPN CollegeFootball @ESPNCFB
The Doak Walker Award for the nation's premier running back goes to … Wisconsin's Jonathan Taylor! https://t.co/1Lia1ktYUx
Taylor adds his name to a notable list of Doak Walker winners that includes Eddie George, Ricky Williams, LaDainian Tomlinson, Larry Johnson, Reggie Bush, Darren McFadden, Derrick Henry and Melvin Gordon.
He ran for more than 100 yards in 11 of his team’s 12 games and surpassed the 200-yard mark four times, including for 321 rushing yards and three touchdowns in a win over Purdue.
The New Jersey native also had 221 rushing yards and three touchdowns in the win over Big Ten West rival Nebraska and surpassed the century mark against stout defenses in Michigan and Penn State.
Wisconsin went just 7-5, but the drop-off was not Taylor’s fault, as the 5’11”, 221-pounder proved to be a physical back who can overpower defenders in the hole to pick up short yardage while also bringing enough speed to burst to the outside and find the end zone after one cut.
The result was a Division I-best 1,989 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns while averaging 7.1 yards per carry. He added eight receptions for 60 yards.
“He knows when he puts his foot in the ground; he doesn’t think anyone is going to stop him from going where he wants to go,” offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph said, per Genaro C. Armas of the Associated Press. “That’s pretty cool to talk about that type of growth.”
Now that Taylor has been recognized for his individual brilliance, he can now turn his attention toward finishing strong in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl against Miami on Dec. 27 at Yankee Stadium.