With what he described as a “busload” of family and friends in attendance, Lorenzo Taliaferro had his high school football jersey retired in front of a packed Bruton High gymnasium Monday evening.
“The gym was packed just like when we were here,” said Taliaferro, who now plays for the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens. “I got to see some people all the way down to the chain gang. I remember all those guys and they’re all here. It’s a blessing just to have this support. That’s what keeps you going. You can’t do anything mentally without support.”
Taliaferro, who was instrumental in Bruton making the state championship game in 2009, was visibly emotional as his high school jersey was unveiled.
“It’s very emotional,” Taliaferro said. “It’s a blessing. It brought back a lot of memories.”
From the moment he walked in the door, Taliaferro was bombarded with old acquaintances, coaches, teachers, students and even some Baltimore Ravens fans who came out just to support a player from their favorite team.
Once his official jersey presentation was over, Taliaferro retreated to a corner of the lobby to field questions from the media and continue his extensive meet-and-greet with fans.
Before Bruton’s varsity boys basketball game, which was immediately after the jersey retirement ceremony, Taliaferro went and spoke to the Panthers basketball team. Taliaferro, who ran 1,678 yards and 21 touchdowns at Bruton, emphasized hard work and stressed the importance of keeping up grades in the classroom — something he struggled with during his time at Bruton.
Those are just some of the life lessons Taliaferro passes down to current Bruton students, as well as students in Baltimore, when he gets the chance.
“Nothing was ever easy here,” Taliaferro said. “In the ninth grade, I felt like I had everything at my fingertips. I started to fall into that statistic of just an athlete. Luckily I did enough just to get by. By the time my senior year came and I couldn’t go where I wanted to go, it was a shock. That’s why when I come back and I talk to these kids, I try to let them know it’s about school.”
After graduating from Bruton in 2010, Taliaferro attended Lackawanna Junior College before transferring to Coastal Carolina University, where he did not fail or drop a class. Taliaferro broke every major school rushing record at Coastal Carolina en route to earning Big South Conference Player of the Year honors.
He was selected in the fourth round of the 2014 NFL Draft by the Baltimore Ravens and rushed for 292 yards and four touchdowns during his rookie NFL season before being placed on the injured reserve list in December.
Taliaferro said his rags-to-riches lifestyle change has been influential in shaping his life on and off the football field. Having his jersey retired Monday evening was just a reminder of how far he has come.
“When I come back I hope to have the same impact on someone else so this sort of thing can happen more and more,” Taliaferro said. “Those students are in the same seat you were in. If it’s already hard for them to believe teachers and administrators, if you’re not keeping it real with them it’s going to be hard to believe in anyone.”
Taliaferro said once his time in the NFL comes to an end, he wants to be a counselor for troubled teens.
“This was before football was even work, I wanted to let someone know it’s never too late and to never give up on your dreams,” Taliaferro said. “When you come from where you come from, it’s a blessing to have someone be in your corner, to fight for you.”