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2021 NFL Draft Prospect Interview: Justin Taormina, RB/KR, Minnesota State-Mankato

Justin Taormina
Justin Taormina is a speedy RB and KR at Minnesota State who’s been known to take a few to the whose. He recently sat down with NFL Draft Diamonds writer Jimmy Williams.
  • Name: Justin Taormina
  • Height: 5’11”
  • Weight: 203 lbs
  • Position: RB/KR
  • College: Minnesota State University-Mankato
  • Twitter: @JT20T
  • Instagram: jttaormina

What is your major/minor? Did you participate in any other activities or campus organizations other than football?
I am currently majoring in Business Management and Human Resource Management while minoring in Business Administration and Business Law. While at Minnesota State, I have been actively involved with our Student Athletic Advisory Committee (SAAC Program) where I am named the Vice President. Our SAAC Program is the active voice for our student-athlete body. We consistently meet with our Athletic Director to better the lives of student-athletes as well as organizing an incredible amount of volunteer opportunities throughout the year. We also help put on panels that relate things like mental health and other important topics. I am also a member of our university’s Track Program where I competed in the Sprints (60 – 6.89, 100 – 10.7, and 4×100) as well as the Jumps (Long Jump – 22’ 8”) and Javelin as well.

What do your teammates say is your best quality?
My teammates would say that my best qualities are my self-discipline and being humble. They know what they are going to get out of me each day and I try to go above and beyond that every day. I am also able to learn from mistakes and failures fast to develop myself off and on the field. 

What kind of role do you see yourself in on the team? What scheme and/or position suits your skillset?
I am the type of player that will do anything that is asked of me. From Running Back to Kick Returns and anything else, I just want to help my team win football games. My skill sets include the way I can change speed at any moment, good hands, and instincts. Coming from a track background as well, I have been able to develop speed and explosiveness that come along with that sport. I think it has always helped me greatly while competing in football throughout the years. But as I said, I am the type of player that just goes out and works hard, one who is unselfish and just enjoys the game. 

Who is the best player you have ever played against in college?
Either EJ Speed (Tarleton State) or Dennis Gardeck (Sioux Falls). Both phenomenal athletes who have both been able to take their game to the next level. High caliber and character guys.

Justin Taormina MSU-Mankato Career Highlights

Which one of your teammates impresses you the most?
Shane Zylstra. Now graduated, but talk about a kid with the best work ethic I have ever seen. Being able to train with Shane this summer has been unmatched. He brings out the best in you with just how hard he works. It makes you want to be the best version of yourself every day and just compete at the highest level you can.

Describe a time in your life when you were able to overcome a struggle.
I think one of the struggles that I had to deal with most in my life was during my first year playing, one of my best friends from high school passed away in a car crash during the football season. It was something that easily could have messed with my head during the entire season, but instead, it gave me a reason to play that much better, to play for that best friend. 

If you didn’t play football, what other sport would you play?
Track. Track and Field is amazing in itself because it is so well known throughout the world and it contains such a big community. The practice grind is probably my favorite part, you work so hard for one or maybe two races and the outcomes are the sweetest of victories. 

What is something that you are most proud of? What would you say is your biggest achievement?
My biggest achievement so far in my life is organizing our biggest Mental Health Panel our school has ever had this past year. Mental Health is something student-athletes deal with on a day to day basis, some do not even know they are experiencing it either. This past year we had north of 250 of our 500+student athletes attend our panel where we had community, faculty, and professional speakers come and talk to us about their stories and experiences with Mental Health. This is the best turnout we have ever had. The number of athletes that came up to me and said that this is the first panel they have been to that has “really hit home” with them. That was the greatest feeling knowing I helped so many people that day. I also passed out bag tags containing campus mental health and other important resources/hotlines to all the athletes so they can help someone who is in need by just giving them the correct number to the correct resource they need. This creates a more helping environment that our school has been very warm to welcoming. We hope to create an environment that everyone feels safe in consistently.

Check out NFL Draft Diamonds 2021 Small School Rankings

Describe one of the most memorable plays of your collegiate career.
One of the most memorable plays in my career was a 99-yard kick return touchdown right before halftime in 2018. The opposing team took a timeout right before the kick and our original plan was to just let the ball go into the endzone and go into the locker room for halftime, but after that timeout, our coach said to scratch the original plan and to “take this to the house” and we did just that. The best moment I have ever had in my football career yet. 

Do you have a favorite athlete or professional team? Is there a player that you model your game after?
I am a huge Chicago Bears, but I like to think I model my game after Darren Sproles. The best all-purpose player to ever play the game. He always did whatever was asked of him regardless of the task at hand. I also really enjoy studying Alvin Kamara tape as much as I can as well.

Who is your favorite music artist? What gets you pumped before a game?
Chance the Rapper. The guy is a lyrical genius. 

What is your favorite comfort food?
York Peppermint Patties. Those are easily my favorite comfort food to have.

Do you have a favorite movie or actor?
Hugh Jackman, The Greatest Showman, great plot, powerful message that includes reminding you to never forget who was there first during your greatest successes as well as to be accepting and proud of who you are no matter what adversity you may face.

What do you do in your spare time? Do you have any hobbies? Any secret talents?
I would say either golf or traveling. My family and I try to travel at least once every year somewhere new to experience the world and learn new things about different cultures in our world. 

Who or what motivates you the most?
My Spirit. I want to consistently better myself every day whether it is on or off the field. I also play for the love of the game. I have been playing football since I was 4 years old and I have enjoyed it more and more every year. My dedication and desire are the key features for being the best version of myself every day.

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