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J.J. Taylor Not Short On Confidence Despite Stature

Arizona running back doesn't think height will hold him back in NFL

Arizona running back J.J. Taylor runs against Southern California on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019, in Los Angeles.
Arizona running back J.J. Taylor runs against Southern California on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019, in Los Angeles.

J.J. Taylor was easy to notice among a flood of running back prospects at the NFL Scouting combine on Wednesday.

He was a head – or two – shorter than everyone else, and it's been this way for awhile.

"I was the same height as everybody growing up, and then high school hit," the University of Arizona product said. "Everybody kept growing and I stopped."

Taylor measured in at 5-foot-5, which will make him one of the shortest NFL players in recent history provided he makes a roster.  Former Broncos receiver and return specialist Trindon Holliday was also 5-5, but it's hard to find anyone listed at 5-foot-4 or below in the past 25 years.

Taylor, the Pac-12 Offensive Freshman of the Year in 2017 and a first-team conference selection in 2018, is projected to get taken in the middle rounds of the draft.

"I've never thought my height would hold be back, and I'm here today," Taylor said. "For other people that have spoken out loud to me, or to people around me, they said I wouldn't make it this far. It's a nice little fuel to the tank. It adds some fire beneath me."

Taylor ran for 3,263 yards and 18 touchdowns at 5.6 yards per carry in 40 games with the Wildcats, and would love to follow in the footsteps of the diminutive running backs who succeeded before him. Darren Sproles and Tarik Cohen are recent examples, etching out solid careers despite playing at 5-foot-6.

The Cardinals have a pair of prominent short players themselves in quarterback Kyler Murray and safety Budda Baker, who are 5-foot-10.

"You look at all these players in the NFL that don't meet the height requirement at their position, and yet they're still doing great things," Taylor said.

It wasn't a sure thing Taylor would end up being small, but it's never particularly bothered him.

"My parents are actually not that short," Taylor said. "I have a little brother in the eighth grade who is 220 (pounds), 5-8 or 5-9. I've got an older brother who is like 6-3. My dad's 6-foot. I got the short end of the stick. But it's not a big deal."