CINCINNATI — University of Cincinnati defensive tackle Jabari Taylor has a clear vision for his future.
To the sixth-year senior, football and academics are interwoven. He earned a criminal justice degree last year. The honor roll student is working toward a master's degree in health education.
"I want to do something that whenever I look at that piece of paper I know nobody can take from me and be like, 'This is what I love to do,'" Taylor said.
Taylor, who appeared in all 14 games on the defensive line in 2021, is reflection of UC's academic success.
"I'm actually really proud of myself, man," Taylor said last week.
"I believe it's helped me lead by example for not only the players who are behind me and the younger guys but also for my family and the little cousins and little brothers and sisters because I'm one of the older guys in my family and I'm just trying to lead by example. They see I'm doing that. I will be one of the first in my family to leave with two degrees. That's a lot of motivation; that's a lot of pride."
UC student-athletes have plenty to celebrate this month.
All 16 UC athletic programs posted a 3.0 grade-point average or higher in the spring semester. The Bearcats earned their ninth consecutive semester of a 3.3 GPA or higher as a department.
"Our student-athletes compete on the field obviously but they also compete in the classroom," UC athletic director John Cunningham said.
"That's just who they are. That's the culture that's been created by our coaches and our staff around our student-athletes, our support systems."
Keri Thoman, associate athletic director for Student-Athlete Support Services and director of football academics, said the academic success is also a reflection on UC head coach Luke Fickell and his recruiting efforts.
"I think the thing that I'm most proud of is that it's comprehensive excellence," Thoman said. "It's not just one particular area. It shows that our guys are as well-rounded as anybody in the country."
Thoman said Taylor's success illustrates why the UC football program was able to earn a perfect score in its Academic Progress Rate (APR) for the first time in program history.
"He's somebody who came in and he wasn't a 4.0 student out of high school," Thoman said. "He didn't have a perfect score on his ACT. But, he was somebody who came in and bought into how we do things here."
Taylor is grateful for the opportunities he's had at UC and equates the athletic department to a family atmosphere whether it's the football staff or academic advisers.
"We teach in our program too with football the way you do anything is the way you do everything," Taylor said.
"If I ever really need anything a couple years down the road, need some help, I could come back here and not feel nervous or disgruntled about asking somebody for something. They would help. It's more than just a friendship and a connection. I really feel like I'm part of a family; football and academic-wise."