Jamar Taylor was on a glide path to the NFL, one of the nation’s top cornerback prospects and a possible first-round pick.
Then came a routine physical at the NFL Scouting Combine, with results that rocked his world.
Taylor’s creatinine levels were high, an indication that his kidneys were operating well below capacity. Turns out, medication for chronic high blood pressure had severely damaged the organs. If untreated, Taylor’s kidneys might have eventually failed.
“I never knew about it, honestly,” Taylor said this week, speaking to the Miami Herald about the condition for the first time. “I was like, ‘What are you talking about?’
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“It never bothered me,” he said. “I never [urinated] blood or anything like that. I always played football, played fast, did my thing.”
Although reversible, the condition caused interested teams to step back. Taylor fell out of the first round and all the way to the 54th pick, where the Dolphins took a chance on a player who they envisioned as a future starter.
Five months later, Taylor is expected to finally take the field as a pro football player. Barring an unforeseen setback, Taylor will play Monday night when the Dolphins and Saints meet in a matchup of undefeated teams.
“You can’t ask for a better show,” Taylor said.
Granted, the speedy coverman from San Diego had hoped to make his debut in Week 1. However, the kidney disorder that scared off teams indirectly contributed to him missing the first three games of his pro career.
In the spring, Dolphins doctors determined that he needed surgery on a sports hernia. The normal recovery time for such a procedure is three months, but Taylor faced an added hurdle: He can’t take anti-inflammatory medication that would have minimized the pain.
“Anti-inflammatories all get metabolized through the kidneys, and continual, frequent use can cause further damage,” said Bryson Lesniak, an orthopedist with the University of Miami Health System. “If you can’t control any of that inflammation, you have pain every time you move something.”
Taylor put it more bluntly.
“It definitely [stinks],” he said. “It’s been an emotional roller coaster, but I’m finally healthy and ready to go whenever they want.
“I’m a fighter. I talked to the trainers, coaches, ‘Get me healthy, and I’ll produce on the field.’”
He’ll likely get that chance Monday.
Starting cornerback Dimitri Patterson has missed the past two games with an injured groin and didn’t practice Wednesday.
Without Patterson, the Dolphins have allowed an average of 273 passing yards per game — and the news gets worse: Drew Brees and the Saints have the league’s fourth-best passing attack.
That means Taylor and fellow rookie Will Davis, who has been sidelined by a toe injury, might get a chance to play from scrimmage.
“We’ll make that determination as the week goes on, but we’d like to see those guys and see what they can do,” defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said.
When healthy, Taylor has an impressive body of work.
He was all-conference as a senior at Boise State, capping a career during which he forced six fumbles, knocked down 18 passes and intercepted seven passes.
Taylor was invited to the Senior Bowl, where he had an impressive week of practice that opened the eyes of scouts throughout the league, including in Miami.
He didn’t keep his jersey as a souvenir, however. Taylor gave it to Stephen Kinsey, a teenage boy from Texas battling non-Hodgkins lymphoma. The two met a few years before when Kinsey, a huge Boise State fan, was invited to lead the Broncos onto the field before a game.
Over the years, Taylor and Kinsey remained in touch, and Taylor wears a blue bracelet honoring his young friend. He will do so until he’s cancer-free.
“I know it’s hard, fighting cancer,” Taylor said. “If I can get him out here to watch one game, put a smile on his face, hopefully it’ll change his aspect on life.”
Taylor’s life-changing moment came at a hospital in Indianapolis, where his kidney condition was discovered.
On Monday, he hopes to have a chance to prove the revelation merely delayed the start of his career but won’t define it.
“When you first come in here, you want to play,” Taylor said. “All you can do is learn and trust the coaches and trust what you’re being taught. Trust the trainers.
“When it’s your time and you’re called on, buckle up, it’s time to roll.”