Vongni Yang, The Union Democrat

Ever since Jared Taylor stepped on the Bret Harte High School campus as a freshman in 2010, he always knew he wanted to play college football.

And after four years of extensive dedication and hard work, including three seasons as a varsity starter, Taylor has earned a partial scholarship and will continue his football career in the fall at the University of Mary in North Dakota.

"I could not describe how happy I was," Taylor said. "There was so much relief that all my hard work paid off and I was going to play college football. My dream came true."

One big selling point for Taylor was his comfort level around the Division II Marauders football team and the Bismarck campus.

"I felt like it was just like home," Taylor said. "I really enjoyed that. It's a small town. Everybody seemed like they are pretty close and was very friendly. It actually reminded me of Angels Camp a little bit. There's enough stuff for you to do, but not enough to overwhelm you. ... Once I arrived, everybody was so nice. It seemed a lot like home, so I won't really feel home sick. It felt like a really good fit. I really enjoyed it."

Taylor, a standout offensive left tackle at 6-foot-4 and 280 pounds, garnered first-team All-Mother Lode League honors after a superior senior season, and was just one vote away from taking home the league's top lineman award.

"He's high quality," said Bullfrogs head coach Jon Byrnes. "I think just the fact that he loves the game so much made him good. He's a senior and he wanted to make a big impact for his team. It was just his physical presence. It's pretty imposing. He's pretty athletic. A lot of kids with his height and body aren't as athletic. He still has a lot of room to put on more athletic weight. He has the speed and acceleration. I think he can easily be a 300-310-pound offensive lineman and still maintain his athleticism."

Taylor also started on the defensive line and notched 41 tackles and a sack as a senior. In his three-year career, the burly and intimidating lineman racked up 132 stops and three sacks.

But it's Taylor's stellar play on the offensive line that stood out.

The senior team captain posted three pancake blocks and helped pave the way for nearly 1,400 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns.

For senior Bullfrog tailback Peter Conrado, running behind the blocking of Taylor was always an advantage.

"It was great," Conrado said. "He made really big holes. I never really had to squeeze through them. Jared could get around that corner. To be honest, no one wants to hit Jared head on because he was so big. I would just use my speed to get around the corner."

Conrado finished second on the team with 272 yards on the ground, including a season-high 96 yards and a touchdown in a 34-12 win over Gustine in September.

"Jared's a great leader," Conrado said. "Everyone looks up to him. He's really dedicated to football. Everyone would follow him into battle."

Although Taylor is a blocking machine on the field, it's his work ethic off the gridiron that defines his leadership skills.

"He works hard," Conrado said. "He puts in a lot of time and effort, especially in the weight room."

With an experienced offensive line returning for the 2014 season, first-year Mary Marauder head coach Josh Kotelnicki plans to redshirt Taylor as a true freshman.

"Heading into my sophomore year, some of those positions will free up," Taylor said. "With redshirting, it will help me develop as a player."

An ambition for Taylor is to play early in his career.

"My goal is that I want to play as a sophomore," Taylor said. "I want to start as sophomore and win that starting spot."

Taylor's host on his official visit earlier this month was Jake East, a wide receiver from Clovis. He will also get the opportunity to play with former Summerville Bear quarterback Zach Roberson, who is projected to take over the reins next season after record-setting gunslinger Craig Bagnell graduated. As a sophomore in 2013, Roberson threw for 219 yards and a touchdown in limited action.

"They said it was a really good school," Taylor said. "That everybody has the same goal of winning a championship. It's really a great school."

One familiar face that will ease Taylor's transition from high school to college is Marauder offensive coordinator Scott Edwards, the Bret Harte head football coach from 2006-12. Edwards coached Taylor as a sophomore and junior.

"It was really awesome," Taylor said. "I haven't seen him in a few months. It was really good to meet and reminisce old stories and discuss football again."

Although football is a priority, getting a solid education is also part of Taylor's long-term goal. He will major in business administration with a minor in criminal justice.

"I always wanted to follow in my uncle's footsteps," Taylor said. "He's a police officer. He was in SWAT. It has always intrigued me."