Jaleel Taylor playing OL for ASI Panthers
By Jonathan Bonilla
Jaleel Taylor, a senior communication major, is finishing up his final semester this fall at Kean University. On top of his dream of becoming a media broadcaster and journalist, Taylor pursues another, larger dream. He strives to become a professional athlete with a degree.
“It was always my dream,” said Taylor. “During the mid-years of college, I thought I going to have a regular job working nine to five.”
Receiving his communications degree in May does not stop him from going forward with his career, as Taylor will be heading to Richmond, Virginia to play for the Richmond Raiders. The Raiders are a professional indoor football team. Taylor will be positioned on the offensive line with possibilities of playing on defense as well.
“I’m ready to start my life in Richmond,” said Taylor. “If my career can take me to the Canadian league or the NFL that would be great, but I still want to have a career in broadcasting.”
The Raiders noticed Taylor through highlight tapes of him playing in a developmental league with the ASI Panthers. Taylor also tried out for the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles. He earned a spot on the team’s practice squad before he was released not long after.
Other than bringing a big body to the team, Taylor brings a humble and coach-able attitude, along with speed, power and a deep knowledge of the game.
“I don’t allow sacks on the offensive line,” said Taylor. “I don’t let anybody touch my quarterback.”
Taylor will leave for Virginia on March 12 for training camp and will begin the season on March 29 against the Columbus Lions.
Taylor started playing football when he was six years old. He couldn’t play in Pop Warner, so he got his start as a quarterback for a flag football team.
“I was always the bigger kid,” chuckled Taylor. “I was six and they wanted me to play with the nine and 10 year olds and my mother wasn’t having that.”
A large part of Taylor’s motivation, on and off the field, comes from his mother.
“She worked as hard as two parents work for their kids,” said Taylor. “So when I’m in the classroom or on the field, it’s all for her.”
Taylor played football in Hillside and for Elizabeth High School, where he was a team captain.
Andrew Munoz is a former teammate who was inspired by Taylor’s personality.
“We had a lot of good players on that team,” said Munoz. “But Jaleel was one of the players that lead by example. He practiced as hard as everyone and made sure everyone practiced as hard as him.”
Taylor then went on to play for the University of New Haven in Connecticut before he transferred to Kean. He didn’t play for Kean’s football team, but he does have a relationship with some of the coaching staff.
School and football isn’t Taylor’s only focus. Taylor juggles being a student and a professional athlete, while also coaching for a non-profit organization known as the Jersey Heat. The Heat is a basketball team that gives young men from the ages 14 to 17 the opportunity to travel the world playing in competitions and helps them get into college with academic and athletic scholarships.
In time, Taylor hopes to start a similar program with football.