Jamar Taylor yet another star to emerge from La Mesa’s Helix
Jamar Taylor’s road to the NFL began in earnest at Helix High School in La Mesa, Calif.
That’s where Taylor, then a freshman, joined a group of friends in approaching Helix alum Trey Young, who was training at his alma mater before beginning a four-year career in the Canadian Football League.
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“Jamar came up to me kind of as the leader of the group and asked if he could work out with me,” Young said. “I told him I worked out on the field at 6 o’clock in the morning, and in the gym at 3 o’clock.
“I didn’t expect him to keep up with it, but he didn’t miss a day. After a while, if his parents couldn’t drop him off, I’d go by his house and pick him up. It got to the point that I told myself, ‘If I don’t show up, that poor kid is going to be there by himself.'”
That was January 2005. Fast forward little more than eight years later, and Taylor became the Miami Dolphins second-round selection in this year’s draft as a cornerback out of Boise State.
A San Diego-area charter high school that produced gridiron stars such as Reggie Bush and Alex Smith now claims Taylor as its latest NFL product. (Helix also produced basketball’s Bill Walton and actor Dennis Hopper.)
Taylor’s head coach at Helix, Donnie Van Hook, is proud of his former player but disappointed two Highlanders won’t be teammates on the Dolphins. Bush, Miami’s leading rusher each of the past two seasons, signed with the Detroit Lions as a free agent in March.
“I have a Miami Dolphins helmet, and Reggie invited me to see them play against the 49ers,” Van Hook said. “Reggie signed the helmet. So when Jamar comes out, I’m going to have Jamar sign it.”
Taylor signed a four-year deal with the Dolphins last month. He was a spectator at the team’s recent minicamp after undergoing hernia surgery, but he should be ready for training camp.
Ask Taylor associates what the Dolphins and their fans can expect from No. 22, and one hears a constant refrain: he’s well-grounded, dedicated and hard-working.
“I saw him when he was a freshman and he was very talented,” Van Hook said. “I approached him and I said, ‘I’d like for you to come out for the varsity next year even though you’re a sophomore and you can go to J.V.’
“He said he had to think about it. Then he sends me an email saying, ‘Coach, I really appreciate the opportunity. I promise you, you won’t make a mistake. I’ll work real hard and if I make mistakes, just let me know.”
In four years at Helix, Taylor played defensive back, receiver and special teams — something that got him noticed by Boise State assistant coach Pete Kwiatkowski.
“There wasn’t a lot of video available by some of those schools, so we didn’t have a lot to go by with Jamar,” Kwiatkowski said. “How he performed on special teams really stood out.”
Kwiatkowski recruited the San Diego area as the Broncos defensive line coach and then tutored Taylor as Boise State’s defensive coordinator the past three seasons — an opportunity that almost didn’t happen.
“We had one scholarship spot for corners, and another kid committed,” Kwiatkowski said. “Two weeks before signing day, that kid decided not to come. I called Jamar and asked, ‘Are you still interested?'”
Taylor’s dream to play in the then Pac-10, specifically at Oregon, was not going to happen. Plus, hometown San Diego State thought he was too slow. He jumped at the Broncos offer.
“He’s got a great work ethic and he loves football,” Kwiatkowski said. “I tell people he’s a great football player, but an even better person.”
That’s something Van Hook knew well before people in Boise. The former coach recalled a Thanksgiving weekend visit from Taylor, who had returned home during his first year in college.
“My mother-in-law was suffering from dementia, and Jamar sat down and talked to her for 15 minutes,” Van Hook said. “I thought he came by to see me but he spent more time with her.
“All she could say was, ‘What a good-looking kid.’ But she knew he was one of my ex-players.”
Taylor’s consideration and respect for others also can be found in the form of a tattoo he sports in honor of a cousin mistakenly killed in a gang shooting.
“Jamar as always had a good support system with his parents, family and friends,” Young said. “He’s a street-smart kid but one who knows to make the right decisions.”
As a former CFL player with Calgary and Edmonton, Young understands what it takes to succeed on the pro level.
“I told Jamar that anybody can make playing professionally a hobby,” Young said. “I said treat it like a career. Be a pro on and off the field.”
Taylor apparently listened.
“Jamar said to me, ‘Coach, I don’t know if living in Miami is for me – it might be too fast for me. I’m all about work right now,” Van Hook said.
“He loves playing football He knows this is not college. He knows this is a job. He said, ‘Even I know I have to get better, Coach. I can’t miss a thing.'”