MILLEN, Ga. -- Defensive tackle Jonathan Taylor (Millen, Ga./Jenkins County) is normally quiet and reserved. That is, until somebody mentions the 79-yard touchdown he scored earlier this year.
"It was actually 80," said Taylor, who is No. 44 in the ESPNU 150. "I came through going for the sack, but the quarterback threw a screen. I backed up and caught it with one hand and took off running. I wanted to score. I kept saying, 'I am not going to let them catch me.'"
Big plays like the defensive touchdown and numerous sacks are the reason Taylor and Jenkins County High School were the 16th stop on the 2012 Under Armour All-America selection tour presented by American Family Insurance. In front of his senior teammates, family and coaches, Taylor was presented with an honorary jersey as part of his selection to play in the game, which will be held Jan. 5 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., and shown on ESPN.
Jenkins County coach Chuck Sanders agrees with Taylor.
"This ceremony means a lot to the town of Millen also," Sanders said. "Over the last couple of years, we have had one of the highest unemployment rates in the state. But this has just brought the community together, and they can be proud of a young man who is an All-American from Jenkins County High School. We have never had one before. We have had college players, but never one to this extent."
Talyor is committed to play football at the University of Georgia, as is teammate James Deloach, who plays defensive end for the Eagles.
Deloach knows his teammate better than anyone. They spend hours together after practice at Taylor's house, which is located almost directly across the street from the school in this small town. Deloach sat in the front row while his best friend received the Under Armour jersey.
"It is indescribable," Deloach said of the ceremony. "I am very proud of him. Being one of his teammates who pushes him on the field, pushes him in the weight room and pushes him in life, I feel it is a great thing that he is getting this award."
Taylor's stepfather, Johnny Richardson, has an interesting take on why Taylor has been so successful on the field.
"He loves wild game," Richardson said. "Deer, raccoon, quail and possum; I cook it and he eats it. He loves to eat. Also, he has never been in trouble."
Aside from the country diet, the 6-foot-4, 320-pound nose tackle is known for big hits, too.
"Against Georgia Military College, he just destroyed the quarterback," Sanders said. "He just landed on him, blowing him up."
"Other teams just run away from him and me," Deloach said. "So this week I am going to line up at defensive tackle and we are going to make them run at us. He is very quiet off the field, but on the field he is always getting us up."
As for the touchdown, Sanders wasn't surprised at all. In fact, he was told it was coming.
"Coach Charlie Waters said in the timeout before it happened, 'Jonathan, we are going to get the ball right here and you are going to intercept it or pick up a fumble and take it back for a touchdown,'" Sanders said. "And lo and behold, two plays later, the ball sort of pops up in the air and all you see is Jonathan's big mitt on it. He pushed the quarterback off, and nobody even came close to catching him. Coach Waters had a premonition."
Radi Nabulsi covers University of Georgia athletics for DawgNation. He can be reached at RadiNabulsiESPN@gmail.com.