On March 10, A.J. Taylor reached a milestone. Before suffering a torn Achilles tendon during the second quarter of Wisconsin's regular-season finale, the wide receiver could squat a maximum of 530 pounds.
In that Instagram video posted in early March, he completed a round of box squatting at 155.
"Not a lot of weight, but I was able to do it, and that was a win for me,"
Taylor told AllBadgers.com on Tuesday afternoon.
Fast forward two months later, Taylor slowly and surely has continued to make strides, progressing back from an injury that robbed him of what should have been his third Big Ten championship game and third New Year's Six bowl.
When he spoke to reporters in Pasadena on Jan. 30, he projected the recovery process would be about six-to-nine months. Here he now sits about five-and-a-half after the injury in positive spirits.
"I feel really good. I feel pretty great," Taylor said. "Like I can do most stuff. I can squat. I can lunge. I can jog a little bit. I can do a lot. I'm not to the spot where I can run and sprint yet. Actually, I can kind of run, but it's not like on my toes and stuff like that. It's more like a heel-to-toe action, which is good.
"But I can tell that there's still more to be progressed. I still got to keep loosening up my Achilles, but I feel like I'm at a really good spot right now."
Taylor recalled the process starting in early to mid January. Starting exercises included seated calf raises, blood flow restriction (BFR) training, and some of what he termed "mini-squats."
He admitted feeling like he was not working because of the fact he could not get far enough on calf raises or his Achilles work and not low enough on his squats. He continued to rehab, however, about four times a week.
Slowly, he started seeing results with higher calf raises, sinking lower on those squats. Then the milestone of 155 pounds on the box squat hit in March.
“Ever since then things have just been like improving exponentially almost," Taylor said. "Pretty soon, I was able to put a little bit more weight on the bar and squat without a box, and I could control it. Then I was able to kind of do a little bit of jogging. Then I was able to jump rope, and it all just kind of fell into place. So that's what I'm doing now and keep doing the same thing.”
Continuing to grind during the rehab process, he is now back in his native Kansas City. The next steps for him include posture adjustments on his runs and tweaking how he walks to regain form. He also hopes to increase his squats and jogging "a little bit faster."
"Then maybe at some point within the next two or three months, I can work on jumping and getting that explosiveness back," Taylor said. "I think the biggest thing is for me, to get to the next level, is going to be getting my explosiveness back and showing them I'm still A.J.
"I'm still the A.J. you saw at Wisconsin.”
As far as how far away it is for Taylor to train for the NFL, he knows it is up to his body and how it takes in his rehab. The wide out -- who finished his UW career with 89 career receptions for 1,316 yards (14.8 yards per reception) and 10 touchdowns -- stated that it could be between the nine to 12-month range. With the way he feels now, he thinks it could be from nine to 10.
That being said, Taylor acknowledged he cannot base that timeframe on how he feels at this moment. He stated he also needs to mentally trust his trainers and himself that he has put in the work. He and his agent have talked about the situation and how to approach it going forward.
"My agent’s biggest thing is take your time," Taylor said. "Take your time, heal up, and we'll go from there. It's going to be good. We just got to make sure we don't rush into anything.”
Along with the game of football, another set of aspirations for Taylor lies in what he groups together as "the industry" -- acting, directing and producing in film. He admitted, just like chasing a chance at the NFL, "just as it can happen, it also couldn't happen so I feel like I've always got to be working on something else."
A communication arts major with an emphasis of TV, radio and film, Taylor excitedly spoke about a screenwriting course that he will take during the summer. He has also taken up photography to keep his creative juices flowing, though he is considering turning that hobby into more of a business.
Down the line in this particular interest of Taylor's, however, is to combine the talents of others and create an independent film group to produce movies.
“I don’t want to just be the sole leader. I just want to make films," Taylor said with a laugh. "That's all it comes down to. I don't care about who's the head, who's in charge. I just want to make films, I want to come together, I want to collaborate, and I want to make just really dope things.
"I want to transform people's lives."