The Franklin & Marshall scholar-athlete profile features a Diplomat who personifies what it means to be an NCAA student-athlete. The F&M campus is filled with dedicated, passionate, and talented student-athletes who have interesting stories to tell – and it's our goal to let those stories be heard. To be chosen as a scholar-athlete of the month, F&M student-athletes must demonstrate academic excellence, leadership, and community service, or have a noteworthy story that stretches beyond the realm of athletic competition.
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Franklin & Marshall College running back Taalib Gerald was a key cog and a captain on the Diplomat football team in 2017, as the squad finished with a 10-1 record, won the Centennial Conference Championship and ended the season with a victory over Widener in the Centennial-Mac Bowl.
But Taalib does not look for personal acclaim.
"This was the best way to end my football career," said Taalib, a senior, "by winning a conference championship and bowl game with a great group of men."
He finished his four-year collegiate career with 30 rushing touchdowns, a new school record, and notched 35 total touchdowns and 210 points scored, both of which tied for first in the school's career record books. His career rushing yardage was 2,489, second all-time for F&M. And he was named to the first team of the All-Centennial squad for the first time in his career.
"Our offensive line was a big part of a great season," said Taalib, a native of Egg Harbor Township, N.J. "This year was great with the passing game, and the whole offense and the defense playing well. The team was really clicking."
The 2017 football squad became just the second team in program history to finish with 10 wins as the Diplomats earned their first postseason victory since 2013.
Taalib came to F&M after a brilliant athletic and academic career at Holy Spirit High School in Absecon, N.J. He played four years of varsity football, was a captain his senior year and was also a member of the National Honor Society.
Taalib's high school squad was a two-time state champion, and he was named a second team all-conference selection. He rushed for 900 yards and 18 touchdowns in his final campaign when he was pursued by Bucknell University and F&M. He chose the Diplomats, and he's pleased with the decision.
"It's been a great fit," said Gerald, an economics major. "Coach Troxell and the other coaches have been great, and the classes have worked out well . . . they are a small size, and I've enjoyed the classroom experience."
Taalib, who is listed at 5-feet-6 and 186 pounds, has not achieved his gridiron success without challenges.
Throughout his undergraduate years, he was hobbled by assorted injuries including a sprained ankle, a broken left forearm that caused him to miss six games his sophomore season, and as a junior, a bone bruise This year he was healthy, and he frequently found holes and reached the end zone.
"Taalib will be remembered as one of the best running backs to wear a Diplomat uniform," said Coach John Troxell. "Not only is he the all-time rushing touchdown leader and all-time points leader but he is a hall-of-fame person.
"He is a great example for our younger players to emulate because he was such a hard worker. He was so much more to our team than a good player. We will miss his leadership and the energy he brought to every practice. He truly loves football, and when he took the field, he always had a smile on his face."
Gerald is certain that one of his life-long memories from his time at the College will be the inaugural game at Shadek Stadium - a state-of-the-art, multipurpose athletic facility built on F&M's North Campus. The Diplomats' star tailback, along with the entire team, shined in the stadium's debut on Oct. 21 as Taalib scored three touchdowns in a 56-0 shutout of Dickinson.
"The new field is great, and the game itself was exciting because there were so many alums and other fans in the stands," the veteran leader said after the game.
Gerald is fast, and in high school, he was on a state champion 4x100 meter relay team. He has run an 11.0 time in the 100 meters – and he can find holes.
"My vision is helpful," the versatile playmaker said. "I think my success in rushing is 75 percent vision, and 25 percent finding the holes after that. I can see openings, and then cut it back or go forward. I was healthy this year, and the team played well together."
The only child of an administrator and a cosmetologist, Taalib plans to become a financial advisor after graduation.
Taalib's vision, grit, and energy will be sorely missed next year on a Diplomat team that is looking to build upon their most-successful season in decades. However, these traits will undoubtedly serve him well long after he exits the gridiron.