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Congrats Homeschooled Miami Dolphin Jason Taylor Part Two

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Congrats Homeschooled Miami Dolphin Jason Taylor

Part Two

By Linda Dobson

Please visit Part One of Congrats Homeschooled Miami Dolphin here.

Volunteer Experiences Full of Life Lessons for Homeschooled Jason Taylor

homeschooledThe younger members of the Taylor family are still growing up and homeschooling in one of the many residential neighborhoos that constitute greater Pittsburgh. Dad Anthony works as a corrections officer and supervisor. Mom Georgia, a computer science degree holder who once worked for the U.S. Department of Defense doing “some things” she can’t discuss, stays home with the children. Jason’s older sister, Tiffanie, lives on the same street with husband Sam and their four daughters.

The Taylors are active church members, and Jason grew up donating much of his time to church activities. As a pre-teen he was part of a puppet team that visited Pittsburgh’s Children’s Hospital monthly to entertain the kids. As he grew, he joined a group of teens that visited nursing homes to sing for the residents. These were Jason’s “tame” volunteer experiences.

He often joined a group of men who went into the worst areas of Pittsburgh to set up coffee and doughnut time in the winter or to handout collected clothing to those who needed it. One day, at the age of 13, he was standing on a street corner alone when a man accosted him with a gun. A fellow church member, who was nearby had kept an eye on Jason, stepped in between the two and convinced the gun-toter to put it away.

A multi-church sponsored group of teens was sent on a 2-week mission to Grenada to help rebuild after the war. Fourteen-year-old Jason was looking forward to performing construction work (which he still loves). His entry into the island country was a bit rough, however. He misplaced his birth certificate and was held back by the custom guards for an hour until his group finally convinced them to let him through.

In Grenada, he passed out candy he had brought for the children. “They hid it to treasure it,” Jason says. “They didn’t even eat it.” This was hard for him to understand, especially when he was trying to survive on the same meals as the children, the “brown stuff that would run across my plate,” he says. Days were tiring but fulfilling as Jason labored with a construction crew. In the evenings after work, the teens performed song-and-dance programs for the children or handed out clothing to those in need. Jason made many friends, including the daughter of an ambassador to Grenada.

While visiting the market one afternoon, Jason took a picture of a native only to have the angry islander come after him with a machete. The man’s belief system led him to accept that Jason had just captured his soul. Jason took to his heels with the man running strong behind him. A good runner himself, Jason zigzagged through the market until he finally lost the native in the fish market. He jumped on to a packed bus to return to his residence, anxiously looked out the window, and there was the angry man leering at him. Wondering what else might happen to him while in Grenada, the frightened teen bought himself a machete. Today that machete hangs in the Taylors’ kitchen, a constant reminder of a faraway place where people are not as fortunate as they are.

Soon it was time to go home, and the group set off to the airport. They got as far as the one red light in the middle of town where traffic and confusion blocked their way. They learned that Jason’s friend’s father, the ambassador, had just been assassinated there.

“Happening at that time in his life, I think those things sobered him a little bit,” says Georgia of the experiences. “I’m sure they will always stay with him.”

Why Aren’t You on My Football Team?

A recent accounting reveals that 23 states allow children educated at home to play interscholastic sports, that is, if you include Vermont, which allows inclusion on individual, but not team sports. Pennsylvania was on that growing list when Jason was homeschooling. One day, Jason was working on his car outside the house when the Woodland Hills High School football coach drove by. The coach stopped and asked the 6′ 5″ tall, 240-pound Jason, “Why aren’t you on my football team?”

Jason answered, “I always play basketball. I’ve played street football, but never organized football.” (“I think I actually told him I’m a heck of a street ball player,” he adds.)

“There are try-outs in a couple of days,” the coach informed him. “Let me know if you need a way to get there, and I’ll come pick you up.”

When Jason asked Georgia if he could try it, she answered, “Go for it.”

Unfortunately, the Woodland Hills High School board officials weren’t quite as supportive. They said no. According to a USA Today article by Carolyn White, it took some advocacy from the football coaches to convince the board to reverse their decision. In the meantime, Jason missed a couple of games and had to constantly remind himself, “I didn’t do anything wrong.”

Jason made the junior varsity team as a tight end and free safety but didn’t play very much during his first year. After he worked his way up to the varsity team, he played a very good senior year of football, observed by an Akron University scout. Jason earned a diploma from Christian Liberty Academy, took the SAT (Scholastic Assessment Test) and the ACT (American College Test), and racked up scores high enough to exceed National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) scholarship requirements. Akron University, with an NCAA Division 1 team and located just 2 short hours from Pittsburgh, offered Jason a full scholarship to come play for them.

Settled into the university and attending classes, Jason faithfully practiced for 5 hours every day with Akron University’s Zips. As a freshman, he was tagged for a starting position as a linebacker. “Two days before the first game, on his eighteenth birthday, the NCAA declared homeschooled Jason’s scholarship invalid, refusing “to honor [his] test scores and saying he hadn’t met core course requirements,” according to USA Today. Mom and Dad quickly responded, threatening court action before the NCAA also reversed its decision after almost a month of legal wrangling.

“I think the NCAA had problems because homeschooling was new to them at the time, and they didn’t have any rules for it,” says Georgia. “They didn’t know how to ‘classify’ homeschooling. The delay with the NCAA in taking care of the problem caused Jason to miss 3 weeks of practice and team activities.” The athletic association finally returned Jason’s scholarship, but not before he was “red-shirted,” meaning he had to sit out an entire year of football. Athletes are granted 5 years in which to complete 4 years of play. Jason had just used up his “reserve” year.

At the university, Jason majored in political science and criminal justice. The double major even made the dean’s list a few time while becoming a shining star on the college football field – and playing basketball.

In his senior year, Jason became a defensive end. It’s the football position he would take when, in the third round of the 1997 draft, the Miami Dolphins chose him to don the #99 jersey. At the beginning of his first season, the Dolphins moved the rookie into a starting position.

In December of 1998, Jason broke his collarbone and was out for the rest of that season. Injuries were nothing new to Jason. “Every finger on his body’s been broken, he has a plate and nine screws in his right arm to protect it, and he’s played in theh pros with a broken forearm,” reports Georgia.

The dolphins are hanging on to Jason into yet another season, likely because they know what kind of player they have in the homeschooled young man. “My son has always been a concentrated individual,” says Georgia. “Even if they’re losing – you watch those games – he plays like only he’s going to save the day, like Mighty Mouse.”

Stay tuned for Part Three of Miami Dolphins Jason Taylor’s homeschooled story!

homeschooledFor more information about Homeschoolers’ Success Stories: 15 Adults and 12 Young People Share the Impact That Homeschooling Has Made on Their Lives, visit this link at Parent at the Helm.

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