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O'HARA: RB Jonathan Taylor not resting on college accomplishments

INDIANAPOLIS – Jonathan Taylor piled up rushing yards in three seasons at Wisconsin at a rate that put him in company with some of the greatest running backs in history.

Taylor's three-year total of 6,174 yards is the most ever by a Division I back in three seasons, surpassing the previous three-year record of 5,596, set by college legend Herschel Walker of Georgia in 1980-82.

Taylor ranks in the top 10 for a single season with 2,194 yards as a sophomore in 2018.

Barry Sanders, the Detroit Lions' Hall of Famer, is No. 1 with 2,628, set in 1988 with Oklahoma State.

Taylor feels a sense of accomplishment and honor to be on any list with players the caliber of Walker and Sanders, but he has no intention of resting on those laurels.

View photos from media availability at the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine on Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020 in Indianapolis.

He wants to add to what he did at Wisconsin for whichever team drafts him. Taylor is understandably proud of how he played at a consistently high level at Wisconsin – with rushing seasons of 1,977, 2,194 and 2,003 yards from 2017-19.

"What separates the great backs from the elite backs is them being able to play on an elite level day in and day out," Taylor said in his media interview at the NFL Combine.

"I think that separates me."

It says something about Taylor's awareness of the great backs in history that Walker and Sanders finished their college careers decades before Taylor enrolled at Wisconsin in 2017.

"Herschel Walker is like the gold standard for a running back," Taylor said. "Barry Sanders – it's his ability to make people miss when nothing is there. To be mentioned with either of those guys, it's an honor and a blessing."

Detroit Lions general manager Bob Quinn included running back as one of the positions that is deep in talent this year. Taylor could be one of the backs the Lions consider drafting in the second round or lower, depending on what happens in free agency.

Taylor had issues with turnovers early in his career at Wisconsin, but showed improvement in 2019. He also was used more as a receiver out of the backfield, including on routes downfield.

Consistency is a valued trait, and so is versatility.

Taylor credits Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst with using him more as a receiver to develop him further as a pro prospect. After catching only 16 passes in his first two seasons combined, Taylor had 26 catches for 252 yards and five touchdowns in 2019.

"Coach Chryst made that a focal point going into my junior year (2019)," Taylor said. "Kudos to him for being more consciously aware of that throughout the game. In the game, that didn't matter to be whether he wanted to hand the ball off to me or throw it to me.

"In the game, I was willing to do whatever it took for us to win as many games as possible. I had a lot of opportunities this year."

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