BRICK – Give a shout-out to Lenny Zdanowicz, the head football coach at Brick Township High School.
Give a shout-out to Ja’Sir Taylor, the ex-Brick standout now in his second year as a defensive back with the Los Angeles Chargers.
Because of both, the first 300 youth football players in their team’s jerseys attending the 2023 Vinny Curry Rush2 Victory Foundation Shore Football Coaches Association All-Shore Football Classic on Sunday, July 9, at 3 p.m. at Monmouth University are receiving free tickets. The tickets cost $10 per person for non-players.
“My high school coach, coach Z, came up with this wonderful idea and I loved it so we moved forward with it,” Taylor said. “It’ll be a great way to get the younger kids in the game to envision their future.”
“I was thinking of something that he could do to be a part of the Classic because he wanted to be a part of it,” Zdanowicz said. “I said, ‘What about something with tickets?’ He said, ‘Yeah, that’s awesome. I love it.’ We talked about this probably two months ago. He decided on donating out the tickets.”
Zdanowicz said he is not surprised at Taylor’s generosity.
“He is always a guy who is never too big for anybody,” Zdanowicz said. “He is never too big to talk to anyone. It goes back to the way he was raised by his family. He is always willing to do something for anybody in need. Ja’Sir shows people that no matter where you came from if you work hard and believe in yourself you can do whatever you want to do.
“Ja’Sir is a very hard worker and a kid everyone can cheer for.”
It will be a big weekend at the West Long Branch institution.
Curry, a former Neptune and Marshall University standout and a National Football League free agent after starting at defensive end on the Philadelphia Eagles’ Super Bowl-winning team, and his Foundation will offer a free youth football camp on Saturday, July 8, from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. The camp is for athletes ages 4-16 as of Saturday, July 8. Registration closes Friday, July 7. To register, go to vinnycurry99.com.
Taylor, a teacher at last year’s camp run by Curry at Neptune, will lead defensive back drills.
“I can’t wait for the camp this year!” Taylor said. “I really enjoy getting back home and helping in any way I can, especially in ways that benefit the youth. When I was younger, I didn’t have a camp like this in my area so it means a lot now that I am able to help host one in my area.”
Taylor said he believes in setting a good example for others. This defensive back is giving back to kids.
“Yes, I see myself as a role model,” he said. “My story and my journey to where I am now is amazing and inspiring. I also take pride in carrying myself the right way on and off the field to be a great role model to those who look up to me.”
Taylor was selected in the sixth round of the 2022 NFL Draft by the Chargers out of Wake Forest University where he starred at defensive back and on special teams. He appeared in each of the Chargers’ 17 regular-season games and made 13 solo tackles and nine assists and defended one pass. He made three solo tackles in a loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars in the American Football Conference wild-card playoffs.
Taylor helped the Chargers to a 10-7 record and a second-place finish to the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC West.
“My first NFL season was great,” said Taylor, selected 214th overall out of 262 players in the league’s 87th annual grab bag on its third and final day. “I learned a lot, played significant time, played pivotal roles in the success of our season and most importantly made it out healthy.”
Taylor played outside cornerback and slot corner and started on all four core special teams for the Chargers.
“My favorite position to play is slot corner,” he said. “I get to match up against the best of the best and prove myself each time I’m out there. I also feel equipped for the position as I have the football I.Q., speed and tackling ability needed to play that position. I approached last year with the mindset of proving myself each and every day. I wanted to make the most of each opportunity I had in order to gain the trust of my teammates and coaches and to help my team win.
Taylor played youth sports in Neptune and Asbury Park before moving to Brick.
“It feels great to be an NFL player,” he said. “I’ve always prepared myself and worked toward this goal since I’ve picked up a ball. The opportunity to play the sport I love for a living while also having the platform to impact and influence people in a positive way is unmatched. It was always a dream to be an NFL player since I was playing Pop Warner (in Asbury Park).”
Taylor, 24, is durable. He set Wake Forest’s career record for most games played with 62 in his five-year career. He never missed a game in five seasons. He missed one game during his senior year at Brick.
“I could have played in it,” he said, “but it was smart to rest before the playoffs. The key to durability is injury prevention, making sure I keep my body healthy throughout the season by getting treatment and rehab on it before I feel aches and pains.”
At Brick, Taylor was rated the 146th best athlete in the nation by 247Sports, a collegiate recruiting service. During his senior season, he rushed for 544 yards and scored 11 touchdowns. He displayed 10.74 speed in the 100 meters in boys track and also competed in basketball for the Green Dragons.
Taylor was promoted to the varsity team from the freshman team halfway through the season by then-varsity coach Rob Dahl. He played slot receiver and running back on the varsity team’s famed Jet Sweep.
He started under Dahl as a sophomore at slot receiver and cornerback. The Green Dragons won the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group III title with a win over Colts Neck at The College of New Jersey during Taylor’s freshman season in 2013.
Taylor helped Zdanowicz’s Green Dragons to Shore Conference Class A South championships as a sophomore and junior. He played slot receiver and cornerback as a junior and senior. He’s the second ex-Brick player in school history to land a berth on an NFL roster. The first player was Art Thoms, who played for the Oakland Raiders.
Zdanowicz said Taylor interacts with the Green Dragons.
“He sees our players in local gyms,” Zdanowicz said. “He poses for pictures with them. Life has been a real whirlwind for Ja’Sir in the last year and a half. We will probably have a planned event for him in the future.”
Taylor received an undergraduate degree in communications from Wake Forest in the spring of 2021.
“Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t achieve something in life,” he said. “In life, if you work hard enough you can do anything you want. Nothing is impossible.”
The 46th Classic will pit the Ocean County All-Stars against the Monmouth County All-Stars on the artificial surface in the first Classic game in history at Monmouth. It has been a seniors-only event since its inception. Taylor, an Ocean County All-Star, received a jersey. However, he did not play in the game.
Monmouth has won the Classic a record four straight seasons. The Classic is the oldest high school football all-star game in New Jersey.
si.com contributed to this report.