Contribution to Noles247.com from Wes Boling of Brentwood Academy
This fall, Brentwood Academy football standout Jalen Ramsey will take the field at Florida State. The highly touted recruit chose the Seminoles over scholarship offers from every corner of the country.
“It’s been crazy,” Ramsey says of the recruiting process. “I didn’t dream of it getting this big.”
But throughout his frenetic senior season, Ramsey had another high priority – his friendship with Brentwood Academy seventh-grader Daniel Taylor. The school designated Ramsey as a mentor to the first-year student in its Big Brother program. Both kids have taken the term “brother” to heart.
“Daniel and Jalen take [brotherhood] seriously,” says Marlena Taylor, Daniel’s mother. “They’re always communicating – at school and outside of school.”
“I don’t have little siblings,“ Ramsey says. “He’s fun and I enjoy being around him.”
“He’s an amazing role model,” Taylor says.
When Ramsey was assigned as Taylor’s big brother at a summer event, the two met for the first time and exchanged phone numbers.
“We’ve been friends since then, keeping in touch throughout the summer and school year,“ Ramsey says. “Anytime he needs something he knows he can text me.”
Taylor arrived at BA this fall with high hopes of contributing on the football field and in the classroom. He starred on the seventh-grade team, starting at quarterback and defensive back. His role model? Ramsey, who not only led the Eagles in receiving yards (667) and interceptions (3), but also succeeded in the classroom despite a hectic schedule.
“He’s good off the field and he’s good on the field,” Taylor says. “He’s just a well-rounded
Ramsey isn’t just doing his duty – he’s enjoying himself.
“He’s the type of guy who can hang out with older kids and actually fit in,” Ramsey says.
What advice does the FSU signee give Taylor?
“Keep your nose clean, always do your homework. Keep your grades up and sports will take care of itself,” Taylor says.
As passionately as Marlena, a middle school principal, teaches those lessons at home, she admits, “It’s going to be more impactful coming from a kid.”
“Jalen made such an impression on Daniel that it has changed his whole mindset about his goals,” Marlena continues. “He’s looking at somebody who has already accomplished those goals.”
While Ramsey enjoys his time with Taylor, he also believes he’s investing in a kid who is capable of bringing his football fantasies to life.
“He’s gonna be great,” Ramsey says. “He has better size and is more athletic than I was. I hope he can learn from me and be even better.”
In fact, both players earned All-America nods this year – Ramsey at the Army All-American Bowl and Taylor at the Eastbay bowl, the event’s junior-high equivalent, also held in San Antonio the same weekend. When the two invaded the Lone Star State, each was thankful to see a familiar face.
“It was awesome,” Taylor says. “We really got to bond, talking and hanging out. Instead of having no one to talk to in the meetings, I had Jalen, so I could talk to him.”
“I wasn’t able to have my teammates with me, but I had someone from the same school,” Ramsey says. “That was just a happy moment.”
While Taylor eluded defenders this season at the quarterback position, he could not escape adversity. He suffered an injury in the final game of the season against MBA. He played through his pain, but the team lost. Ramsey was there to console the dejected young signal-caller.
“He said, ‘Just keep your calm,’” Taylor recalls. “I got hit a lot that game – more than usual. He said to keep your cool. It’s gonna come. You’re not gonna win every game. Sometimes you’re just gonna have those days.”
Ramsey has had plenty of crazy days this year. As a top college football recruit, he has seen the benefits and drawbacks of the spotlight.
In today’s tumultuous college football climate, top recruits are treated like commodities – quantified by talent evaluators, quizzed by reporters and quibbled over by college coaches. Ramsey’s relationship with Taylor has provided a refreshing escape for the highly sought star.
“We haven’t talked about [the recruiting process] a lot,” Ramsey says, adding he hopes he has handled the attention in a way that serves as a good example to Taylor.
“I feel like I’ve been handling everything in the correct way, being respectful to everyone who’s come in,” Ramsey says.
Taylor sees Ramsey’s maturity under scrutiny as a trait he wants to emulate.
“He’s a great mentor, and not just on the football field,” Taylor says. “He’s taught me to be a better man. I’ve really tried to follow in his footsteps.”
Ramsey has certainly dealt with his fair share of hype – “I didn’t dream of it getting this big,” he says. But when he learned the Eastbay Bowl was holding a press conference to announce Taylor’s nomination to the game, he didn’t just attend the gathering. He was the first person there.
“It took only a text from Daniel to say ‘My jersey presentation is on this day,’ and Jalen was the first one there,” Marlena Taylor says. “It really meant a lot to have Jalen there supporting him.”
“It feels good when you have someone supporting you,” Ramsey says. “Right when he texted me I said, ‘No problem, I’ll come.’ I was proud of him.”
In a few short months Ramsey is headed to Tallahassee, where he will get the chance to compete for immediate playing time. Taylor is training for eighth-grade football, where he has high goals for himself and his team.
“I need to get stronger and bigger,” Taylor says. “My forty-yard-dash time needs to get down.”
“Daniel is very goal-oriented,” Marlena says of her son, who she says watches the Discovery Channel instead of cartoons and has already decided he wants to major in marine biology.
As Taylor strives to achieve his dreams, his mentor will be watching. Even though Ramsey will attend college several hours away, he insists that when it comes to his relationship with Taylor, he isn’t going anywhere.
“I’m going to stay in touch with him as long as I can,” Ramsey says. “I hope he can come to some of my games, and I hope I can get back and see some of his games when he gets in high school. He’s gonna be a stud.”
For Taylor, the friendship doesn’t just serve as a source of strength. It also acts as a reminder that brotherhood isn’t bound by blood, and that Brentwood Academy – the place he arrived in August with high hopes but few acquaintances – is more than merely a school.
“BA’s a family. I’ve gotten support from all my friends and teachers,” Taylor says. “They love me here.”