- Lawrence Taylor
caption=Lawrence Taylor on the golf course in 2007.
birthdate=birth date and age|mf=yes|1959|2|4
New York Giants(1981-1993)
Pro Bowlselection (1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990)
All-Proselection (1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990)
Super Bowlchampion (XXI, XXV)
NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team
NFL 1980s All-Decade Team
NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year
* 1986 AP NFL MVP
PFWA NFL MVP
Bert Bell Award
* 3x AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year (1981, 1982, 1986)
* NEA NFL Defensive Player of the Year (1986)
UPI NFC Defensive Player of the Year(1983, 1986)
Lawrence Julius Taylor (born February 4, 1959), nicknamed L.T., is a retired Hall of Fame
American footballplayer. Taylor played his entire professional career as a linebackerfor the New York Giantsin the National Football League(NFL). He is considered to be one of the greatest defensive players in the history of football, and has been called the greatest defensive player of all time by members of the media, former players, and coaches. [cite news |first= |last= |authorlink= |coauthors= |title=Best defensive player in NFL history? |url=http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/news/story?id=2823763 |work=ESPN |publisher= |date= |accessdate=2008-05-01]
All-American career at the University of North Carolina (UNC) (1978–1981), Taylor was drafted by the Giants as the second overall selection in the 1981 NFL Draft. Although controversy surrounded the selection due to Taylor's contract demands, the two sides quickly resolved the issue. Taylor won several defensive awards after his rookie season. Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, Taylor was a disruptive force at outside linebacker, and is widely considered to have changed the pass rushing schemes, offensive lineplay, and offensive formationsused in the NFL. Taylor produced double-digit sacks each season from 1984 through 1990, including a career high of 20.5 in 1986. He also won a record three Defensive Player of the Year awards and was named the league's Most Valuable Player (MVP) for his performance during the 1986 season. He was named first-team All-Pro in each of his first nine seasons and was a key member of the Giants' defense, nicknamed "The Big Blue Wrecking Crew", that led New York to victories in Super Bowl XXIand XXV. During the 1980s Taylor and fellow linebackers Carl Banksand Hall of Famer Harry Carsongave the Giants linebacking corps a reputation as one of the best in the NFL.
Taylor had a controversial lifestyle, during and after his playing career. He admitted to using addictive drugs such as
cocaineas early as his second year in the NFL, and was suspended several times by the league for failing drug tests. His drug abuse escalated after his retirement, and he was jailed three times for attempted drug possession. However, Taylor cleaned up his lifestyle and has lived a sober, drug-free life since 1998. He worked as a color commentatoron sporting events for several years after his retirement and, as of 2008, is pursuing a career as an actor.
Taylor was the second of three sons born to Clarence and Iris Taylor in Williamsburg,
Virginia. His father worked as a dispatcherat the Newport News shipyards, while his mother was a schoolteacher.Harris, Nolte, and Kirsch. pg. 449 ] Referred to as Lonnie by his family, Taylor was a mischievous youth. His mother recalls, " [h] e was a challenging child. Where the other two boys would ask for permission to do stuff, Lonnie...would just do it, and when you found out about it, he would give you a big story."Taylor and Serby. pg. 5 ] Taylor concentrated on baseball as a youth, in which he played the position of catcher, [Taylor and Falkner. pg. 7 ] and only began playing football at the age of 15. He did not play organized high school football until the following year ( eleventh grade), [Didinger, Ray. "A Complex Giant Taylor As Difficult To Understand As He Is For Opponents To Stop", Philadelphia Daily News, January 16, 1986, accessed May 10, 2008.] and was not heavily recruited coming out of high school. [Taylor and Serby. pg. 17 ]
After graduating from Lafayette High School in 1977, [ Shampoe. pg. 65 ] Taylor attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where he was a team captain, [ [http://grfx.cstv.com/photos/schools/unc/sports/m-footbl/auto_pdf/alltimelettermen.pdf North Carolina Football All-Time Letterman] (PDF),
cstv.com, accessed February 26, 2007. ] and wore jersey number 98. Originally recruited as a defensive lineman, Taylor switched to linebacker before the 1979 season. [Powell. pg. 80 ] He had 16 sacks in his final year there (1980),Whitley, David. [http://espn.go.com/classic/biography/s/Taylor_Lawrence.html L.T. was reckless, magnificent] , espn.com, accessed January 29, 2007. ] and set numerous defensive records. His awards included All-Americaand Atlantic Coast ConferencePlayer of the Year honors in 1980. While there, he impressed the coaching staff with his intense level of play. "As a freshman playing on special teams, he'd jump a good six or seven feet in the air to block a punt, then land on the back of his neck," said North Carolina assistant coach Bobby Cale. "He was reckless, just reckless." UNC later retired Taylor's jersey and it later became common for subsequent players to frequently be measured against Taylor. When Julius Peppers, a fellow alumnus and current member of the NFL's Carolina Panthers, attended UNC he was frequently compared to Taylor. Peppers commented at the time, that while he appreciated the comparisons to Taylor, he was anxious to leave the university and get out of Taylor's shadow. [ Knight Ridder. [http://www.accessmylibrary.com/comsite5/bin/pdinventory.pl?pdlanding=1&referid=2930&purchase_type=ITM&item_id=0286-6014906 Peppers is drawing comparisons to Taylor.] , April 16, 2002, available online via accessmylibrary.com, accessed February 17, 2007.
* [http://archive.profootballweekly.com/content/archives2001/draft_2001/combine_qanda_peppers.asp Q & A with North Carlina DE Julius Peppers] , "
Pro Football Weekly", March 20, 2002, accessed February 17, 2007. ]
1981 NFL Draft and training camp
1981 NFL Draft, Taylor was drafted by the NFL's New York Giants as the # 2 pick overall. In a poll of NFL General Managers (GMs) taken before the draft 26 out of the 28 GMs stated that if they had the first selection they would select Taylor.Sansevere, Bob. [http://www.accessmylibrary.com/coms2/summary_0286-5505815_ITM Giants' L.T.: His mean streaks revolutionized NFL, made him the best.] , Knight Ridder, January 8, 1994, available at accessmylibrary.com, accessed February 17, 2007. ] One of the only two GMs who stated that they would not take Taylor was the GM of the New Orleans Saints, who had the first pick in the draft. Giants General Manager George Young was one of the many who saw Taylor's potential and even predicted before the draft that he would be better than NFL legends such as Dick Butkus: "Taylor is the best college linebacker I've ever seen. Sure, I saw Dick Butkus play. There's no doubt in my mind about Taylor. He's bigger and stronger than Butkus was. On the blitz, he's devastating." Shortly before the draft controversy arose however, as Taylor and his agent Mike Trope expressed a desire to sign a contract for a then unheard of rookie salary of $250,000 U.S. dollars per season. Associated Press. [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9B04E1DD1738F935A15757C0A967948260 Giants' Walkout Is Hinted If Taylor Signs at His Price] , " The New York Times", April 26, 1981, accessed February 17, 2007. ] Several players on the Giants even threatened to walkoutif Taylor was paid that salary, as they refused to play for less than an unproven rookie. On draft day the Saints selected George Rogers as their first overall pick, which left the Giants with decision of whether to select Taylor. Despite the controversy, and to the raucous approval of the crowd in attendance at the draft (which was held in New York), the Giants selected Taylor.Anderson, Dave. [http://select.nytimes.com/search/restricted/article?res=F30F1EFB3D5C0C7A8EDDAD0894D9484D81 By Sports of The Times; N.F.L.'s Dangerous Trend] , "The New York Times", April 19, 1981, accessed February 17, 2007. ] Taylor took to New York immediately, and expressed his excitement about the opportunity to play in the city.Litsky, Frank. [http://select.nytimes.com/search/restricted/article?res=F50611FB3D5C0C7A8EDDAD0894D9484D81 Giants pick Taylor; Jets pick runners] , "The New York Times", April 29, 1981, accessed February 17, 2007. ] Shortly after the draft several Giants players backed down from their stance, as Taylor stated that he had "talked to some players and coaches" and "got things straightened out." Despite the contract controversy, one of the factors that the Giants stated they considered in selecting Taylor was his solid reputation coming out of college. "He was the cleanest player in the draft. By that I mean there was no rap on him,"Anderson, Dave. [http://select.nytimes.com/search/restricted/article?res=FB0F1EFF3B5F0C748CDDA00894D9484D81 Yellow Flag For a No. 1] , "The New York Times", September 7, 1981, accessed February 17, 2007. ] head coach Ray Perkinssaid after he was drafted. "Great potential as a linebacker, a fine young man, free of injuries."
Taylor's talent was evident from the start of training camp.Litsky, Frank. [http://select.nytimes.com/search/restricted/article?res=F40E11FD3F5F0C748CDDA10894D9484D81 Linebacker's debut is eagerly anticipated] , "The New York Times", August 7, 1981, accessed February 17, 2007. ] Reports flowed out of the Giants training compound of the exploits of the new before he had even stepped onto the field for an actual game. Taylor's teammates took to calling him
Supermanand jokingly suggested that his locker should be replaced with a phone booth. Phil Simms, the team's quarterback, stated the week before the Giants pre-season opener, " [o] n the pass rush, he's an animal. He's either going to run around you or over you. With his quickness, he's full speed after two steps." Simms later commented that he was looking forward to the season starting because, " [o] nce the season starts at least I won't have to play against him any more." Taylor made his NFL exhibition debut on August 8, 1981, recording 2 sacks in the Giants 23–7 win over the Chicago Bears. [Frank Litsky, [http://select.nytimes.com/search/restricted/article?res=FB0D13FB3F5F0C7A8CDDA10894D9484D81 Giants sets (sic) back Bears, 23-7] , "The New York Times", August 9, 1981, accessed February 17, 2007. ] Years after facing Taylor in an exhibition game, Pittsburgh Steelers Quarterback Terry Bradshawrecalled, " [h] e dang-near killed me, I just kept saying, 'Who is this guy?' He kept coming from my blind side and just ripped my ribs to pieces."Associated Press. [http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/football/nfl/news/1999/01/29/lawrence_taylor/ The Michael Jordan of Football] , sportsillustrated.cnn.com, January 30, 1999, accessed February 17, 2007. ] Before the season had even started word began to spread around the league about Taylor and his intense, hard-hitting style of play. [Danyluk. pg. 297 ]
Early career: 1981–1985
Taylor's NFL regular season debut occurred on September 6, 1981 in a 24–10 loss to the
Philadelphia Eagles. The game was relatively unnoteworthy for Taylor except that he was charged with a penalty for a late hit on Eagles running back Perry Harrington. Taylor went on to finish his rookie season with 9.5 sacks and 133 tackles. [http://www.profootballhof.com/hof/member.jsp?player_id=212 Lawrence Taylor bio] , profootballhof.com, accessed February 2, 2007. ] and his rookie season has been called the greatest in NFL history by writers for ESPNand " Sports Illustrated".Merron, Jeff. [http://espn.go.com/page2/s/list/nflrookies.html LT best NFL rookie of all time] , espn.com, accessed February 3, 2007. ] [ [http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/multimedia/photo_gallery/0704/gallery.nfl.impactrookies2/content.15.html Top 15 Rookie Impacts of the 30 years #1] , sportsillustrated.cnn.com, accessed May 2, 2007. ] Taylor was named 1981's NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and NFL Defensive Player of the Year by the Associated Press, becoming to date the only rookie to ever win the Defensive Player of the Year award. [As of 2007 Taylor is the only player to win the award as a rookie, see NFL Defensive Player of the Year. ] Taylor's impact contributed to the Giants defense going from allowing 425 points in 1980 to 257 in 1981. The Giants finished the season 9–7, up 5 games from the previous season's 4–12 record, and advanced to the NFL divisional playoffs, where they lost 38–24 to the eventual Super Bowlchampion San Francisco 49ers. [ [http://www.databasefootball.com/teams/teamyear.htm?tm=NYG&lg=nfl&yr=1981 1981 New York Giants] , databasefootball.com, accessed February 17, 2007. ] The 49ers' win was due in part to a special tactic 49ers coach Bill Walsh used to slow down Taylor. Walsh assigned guard John Ayers, the team's best blocker, to block Taylor, and although Taylor still recorded a sack and three tackles, he was not very effective in subduing the 49ers offense.Johnson, Roy S. [http://select.nytimes.com/search/restricted/article?res=F40B15F6385C0C778CDDA80894DA484D81 49ers Coach's tactic helps nullify Taylor] , "The New York Times", January 4, 1982, accessed February 17, 2007 ]
Taylor's second year was cut short by the 1982 NFL strike and the Giants struggled to a 4–5 finish in the abbreviated season. [ [http://www.databasefootball.com/teams/teamyear.htm?tm=NYG&lg=nfl&yr=1982 1982 New York Giants] , databasefootball.com, accessed February 17, 2007. ] The season included one of the more memorable plays of Taylor's career however. In the nationally televised Thanksgiving Day game against the
Detroit Lionsthe teams were tied 6–6 early in the fourth quarter, when the Lions drove deep into New York territory. Lions quarterback Gary Danielsondropped back to pass and threw the ball out to his left toward the sidelines. [http://www.nfl.com/news/story/9059331 Last word on Young's comments] , NFL.com, accessed February 17, 2007 ] Taylor ran in front of the intended receiver and intercepted the ball. In what would become one of the best-known plays of Taylor's career, he ran 97 yards down the sideline for the go-ahead score that proved to be the difference as the Giants won 13–6.Litsky, Frank. [http://select.nytimes.com/search/restricted/article?res=F70F15F6385D0C758EDDA80994DA484D81 Giants win first on interception] , "The New York Times", November 26, 1982, accessed February 17, 2007. ] After the season Taylor was again awarded the NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award. [http://www.databasefootball.com/players/playerpage.htm?ilkid=TAYLOLAW01 Lawrence Taylor] , databasefootball.com, accessed February 20, 2007. ]
Shortly after the 1982 season Perkins resigned as head coach to take over the same position at the
University of Alabamaand Bill Parcellswas hired from within to replace him. Parcells had been the team's defensive coordinator, and in the coming years this change would prove crucial to the Giants and Taylor. Leading up to the 1983 season, Taylor engaged in a training camp holdout that lasted three weeks and ended when Taylor came back to the team under his old contract with three games remaining in the preseason. [Janofsky, Michael. [http://select.nytimes.com/search/restricted/article?res=F60B1FF6345D0C708DDDA10894DB484D81 Taylor ends holdout] , "The New York Times", August 13, 1983, accessed February 17, 2007. ]
Although Taylor recorded nine sacks and made the All-Pro team for the third consecutive season in 1983, the Giants struggled. The team finished 3–12–1, [http://www.databasefootball.com/teams/teamyear.htm?tm=NYG&yr=1983&lg=nfl 1983 New York Giants] , databasefootball.com, accessed February 20, 2007. ] and Parcells received heavy criticism during the season from both the fans and the media. After the season, Taylor was involved in a fight for his services between the
New Jersey Generalsof the United States Football Leagueand the Giants.Eskenazi, Gerald. [http://select.nytimes.com/search/restricted/article?res=F10816FA355C0C7B8DDDA80894DC484D81 Taylor buys out Generals' pact] , "The New York Times", January 18, 1984, accessed February 17, 2007. ] Taylor had been given a $1 million dollar interest-free, 25-year loan by the General's owner Donald Trumpon December 14, 1983, with the provision that he would begin playing in the USFL in 1988. Taylor quickly regretted the decision and less than a month later attempted to get out of the agreement. The Giants, who were eager to keep Taylor, took part in attempting to free Taylor from the agreement. The final agreement between Trump and the Giants included three parts: 1) Taylor had to return the $1 million dollars to Trump, 2) the Giants were required to pay Trump $750,000 dollars over the next five seasons in order for Trump to release Taylor's rights, and 3) Taylor was given a new 6-year $6.2-million-dollar contract by the Giants. [Eskenazi, Gerald. pg. 46. – Trump later stated that in the event of the USFL folding (which occurred in 1985), he would have held on to Taylor's rights to employment: "I'd put him in a doorman's uniform and have him work at one of my buildings." (ibid) ]
The Giants record rebounded to 9–7 in 1984, [http://www.databasefootball.com/teams/teamyear.htm?tm=NYG&lg=nfl&yr=1984 1984 New York Giants] , databasefootball.com, accessed February 20, 2007. ] and Taylor had another All-Pro season. Taylor got off to an exceptional start to the season, getting four sacks in a September game against the
Tampa Bay Buccaneersand eight total sacks in the Giants' first four games.Anderson, Dave. [http://select.nytimes.com/search/restricted/article?res=F30E1FFD3F5F0C778EDDA00894DC484D81 Put an S on his chest] , "The New York Times", September 24, 1984, accessed February 17, 2007. ] Due to this start opposing teams double and triple teamed him even more than usual throughout the remainder of the season and Taylor finished with 11.5 sacks. In the playoffs the Giants defeated the Los Angeles Rams 16–13, but ultimately lost 21–10 to the eventual champion 49ers. [ [http://www.databasefootball.com/teams/teamyear.htm?tm=NYG&lg=NFL&yr=1984 1984 New York Giants] , databasefootball.com, accessed February 18, 2007. ]
In contrast to the previous season the Giants headed into the 1985 season with a sense of optimism after their successful 1984 campaign and a 5–0 pre-season record in 1985.Litsky, Frank. [http://select.nytimes.com/search/restricted/article?res=F10C17F73F5F0C728FDDA10894DD484D81 Giants end Summer 5-0 Mowatt injured] , "The New York Times", August 31, 1985, accessed February 21, 2007. ] The Giants finished the season with a 10–6 record, and Taylor spearheaded a defense that led the NFL in sacks with 68. [ Neft, Cohen, and Korch. pg. 807 ] Taylor himself had 13 sacks. One of the more memorable plays of Taylor's career occurred during this season. On a "
Monday Night Football" game against the Redskins, Taylor's sack of Redskins quarterback Joe Theismanninadvertently resulted in a compound fracture of Theismann's right leg. Immediately after the sack, a distraught Taylor frantically screamed for paramedicsto attend to Theismann. Although this sack by Taylor ended Theismann's career, Theismann has never blamed Taylor for the injury. Taylor claims he has never seen the video clip of the play and says he never wants to. The two are currently great friends, pairing up during many celebrity golf tournaments. During the first round of the playoffs, the Giants defeated the defending champion 49ers 17–3. [http://www.databasefootball.com/teams/teamyear.htm?tm=NYG&lg=nfl&yr=1985 1985 New York Giants] , databasefootball.com, accessed February 18, 2007. ] However, the Giants lost to the eventual champion Chicago Bearsin the second round 21–0.
Mid-career and championships: 1986–1990
In 1986 Taylor had one of the most successful seasons by a defensive player in the history of the NFL. Taylor recorded a league-leading 20.5 sacks and became one of just two defensive players to win the NFL Most Valuable Player award (
Alan Pagewas the other) and the only defensive player to be the unanimous selection for MVP.Charles, Nick. [http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/football/nfl/news/1999/08/06/pageone_lawrencetaylor/index.html Taylor made: 'L.T.' has a date with Canton, destiny] , sportsillustrated.cnn.com, August 12, 1999, accessed January 29, 2007. Note: Taylor is still the only defensive player to win the award unanimously, as he is the last defensive player to win it. ] [ [http://www.infoplease.com/ipsa/A0109692.html Lawrence Taylor] , infoplease.com, accessed March 23, 2007.] [Sprechman and Shannon. pg. 13 ] In addition, Taylor won the Defensive Player of the Year Award. The Giants finished the season 14–2 and dominated their opposition in the NFC playoffs, beating San Francisco and Washington by a combined score of 66–3. [http://www.databasefootball.com/teams/teamyear.htm?tm=NYG&yr=1986&lg=nfl 1986 New York Giants] , databasefootball.com, accessed February 22, 2007. ] Taylor appeared on the cover of " Sports Illustrated" alone the week leading up to Super Bowl XXIwith a warning from the magazine to the Denver Broncos regarding Taylor. [" Sports Illustrated". [http://dynamic.si.cnn.com/si_online/covers/issues/1987/0126.html Volume 66 Issue 4] , available for viewing online via sportsillustrated.cnn.com, January 26, 1987, accessed April 17, 2007. ] The Giants overcame a slow start in Super Bowl XXI to cruise past the Denver Broncos39–20. Taylor made a key stop on a goal line play in the first half, tackling John Elwayas he sprinted out on a rollout, a play which prevented a touchdown.
With the Super Bowl win, Taylor had just capped off an unprecedented start to his career. Six years into his career Taylor had won the
NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Award(1981), the NFL Defensive Player of the Year Awarda record three times (1981, 1982, 1986), been named to the AP All-Pro first team six times (1981–86), became the first defensive player in NFL history to be unanimously voted the league's MVP (1986), and led his team to a championship (1986).
The Giants appeared to have a bright future coming off their 1986 championship season as they were one of the younger teams in the league. They stumbled mightily the next season however, and fell to a record of 6–9 in the strike-shortened 1987 season. [http://www.databasefootball.com/teams/teamyear.htm?tm=NYG&lg=nfl&yr=1987 1987 New York Giants] , databasefootball.com, accessed February 18, 2007. ] Taylor continued to produce at his usual all-pro level after missing the first 4 four games due to the strike and he finished the season as the team leader in sacks with 12 in 12 games played.
The Giants looked to rebound to their championship ways in 1988 but the start of the season was marred by controversy surrounding Taylor. Taylor tested positive for cocaine and was suspended by the league for thirty days, as it was his second violation of the NFL's substance abuse policy. The first result in 1988 had been kept private and was not known to the public at the time. He was kept away from the press during this period and checked himself into rehab in early September.Harvin, Al. [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=940DE0D9163BF930A3575AC0A96E948260 N.F.L.; Taylor Entering Rehabilitation] , "The New York Times", September 3, 1988, accessed March 23, 2008. ] Taylor's over-the-edge lifestyle was becoming an increasing concern for fans and team officials. This was especially true given the eventual career paths of talented players like
Hollywood Hendersonand others whose drug problems derailed their careers. Despite this distraction the Giants would tread water until Taylor was able to play, going 2–2 in the games Taylor missed. When Taylor returned he was his usual dominant self as he led the team in sacks again, with 15.5 in the 12 games he played in. [http://www.databasefootball.com/teams/teamyear.htm?tm=NYG&yr=1988&lg=nfl 1988 New York Giants] , databasefootball.com, accessed February 18, 2007. ] The season also contained some of the more memorable moments of Taylor's career. In a crucial late-season game with playoff implications against the New Orleans Saints, Taylor played through a torn pectoral muscle to record seven tackles, three sacks, and two forced fumbles.Schwartz, Larry. [http://espn.go.com/classic/s/taylorlawrenceadd.html Taylor redefined the outside linebacker position] , espn.com, November 19, 2003, accessed February 21, 2007. ] Taylor's presence in the lineup was especially important as during the game the Giants' offense had trouble mounting many drives and was dominated in time of possession. [http://www.databasefootball.com/boxscores/gamedata.htm?dy=27&mth=11&yr=1988&tm=NOR&lg=NFL Box score No vs. NYG 11/27/1988] , databasefootball.com, accessed February 21, 2007. ] Several times throughout the game television cameras cut to the sidelines to show Taylor in extreme physical pain as he was being attended to by the Giants staff. Taylor's shoulder was so severely injured that he had to wear a harness to keep it in its place. The Giants held on for a 13–12 win, and Parcells later called Taylor's performance " [t] he greatest game I ever saw." [ Gutman. pg. 132 ] However, due to the tie-breaker system, the Giants missed the playoffs in 1988 despite a 10–6 record.
In 1989, Taylor recorded 15 sacks. He was forced to play the latter portion of the season with a fractured
tibia, which he suffered in a 34–24 loss to the 49ers in week 12.Litsky, Frank. [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=950DEED61F3DF931A35751C1A96F948260 Taylor's Ankle Is Broken, but He Feels Better] , "The New York Times", December 2, 1989, accessed March 23, 2008.
* Anderson, Dave. [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=950DE5DB1E3FF930A35751C1A96F948260 SPORTS OF THE TIMES; Will L. T. Try to Play on a Broken Ankle?] , "The New York Times", December 3, 1989, accessed March 23, 2008.
*Litsky, Frank. [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=950DE3D8173FF937A35751C1A96F948260 Despite Fracture, Taylor Plays] , "The New York Times", December 4, 1989, accessed March 23, 2008. ] Despite the off-the-field problems that Taylor experienced, he remained popular among his teammates and was voted defensive co-captain along with
Carl Banksin 1989."The New York Times". [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=950DE4DF1E3DF93BA2575AC0A96F948260 Sports of The Times; L.T., as in 'Leadership Thing'] , September 18, 1989, accessed March 23, 2008. ] The two combined to fill the vacated defensive captain's spot left by the retired Harry Carson. With the retirement of the nine-time Pro Bowler Carson, the Giants linebacker corps of Carson, Banks, and Taylor — which spearheaded the team's defense nicknamed the "Big Blue Wrecking Crew" in the 1980s — was broken up. The Giants went 12–4, [ [http://www.databasefootball.com/teams/teamyear.htm?tm=NYG&lg=nfl&yr=1989 1989 New York Giants] , databasefootball.com, accessed February 18, 2007. ] and advanced to the playoffs. In an exciting, down-to-the-wire game, the Rams eliminated the Giants 19–13 in the first round, despite Taylor's two sacks and one forced fumble. [Litsky, Frank. [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9C0CE5DF1539F93BA35752C0A966958260 Rams Win Toss and Game as Giants' Season Ends] , "The New York Times", January 8, 1990, accessed March 23, 2008. ]
The 1990 season got off to an inauspicious start for Taylor and the Giants as Taylor held out of a training camp, demanding a new contract with a salary of $2 million dollars per year.Anderson, Dave. [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9C0CE0DB163AF931A15754C0A966958260 Sports Of The Times; Why L. T. Deserves $2 Million] , "The New York Times", July 22, 1990, accessed March 23, 2008. ] Talks dragged into September with neither side budging, and as the season approached Taylor received fines at the rate of $2,500 dollars a day. [Litsky, Frank. [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9C0CE5D91F38F932A3575AC0A966958260 Giants and Marshall Settle But Talks on Taylor Stall] , "The New York Times", September 1, 1990, accessed March 23, 2008. ] Taylor signed a contract just four days before the season opener against the
Philadelphia Eagles. Despite sitting out training camp and the preseason, Taylor started against the Eagles and finished with three sacks and a forced fumble. [Litsky, Frank. [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9C0CEED8173DF936A2575AC0A966958260 FOTTBALL; (sic) Marshall Struggles to Regain Job] , "The New York Times", September 15, 1990, accessed March 23, 2008. ] Taylor finished the season with 10.5 sacks and earned his 10th Pro Bowlin as many years, although the season marked the first time in Taylor's career that he would not make the first team on the Associated Press All-Pro team. The Giants started out 10 – 0 and finished with a 13–3 record. In the playoffs the Giants defeated the Bears 31–3, [http://www.databasefootball.com/teams/teamyear.htm?tm=NYG&lg=nfl&yr=1990 1990 New York Giants] , databasefootball.com, accessed February 18, 2007. ] and went on to face their rival the 49ers in the NFC conference championship game. The Giants won a close game 15–13, as Taylor recovered a key fumble late in the game to set up Matt Bahr's game-winning field goal. In Super Bowl XXVTaylor's Giants faced off against the Buffalo Billsand in one of the more entertaining Super Bowls in history won 20–19, after Scott Norwoodmissed a potential game winning field goal for Buffalo at the end of the game.
Final years and decline: 1991–1993
Following the 1990 season Parcells, whom Taylor had become very close to, [Rosenberg, Sid. [http://www.fhmonline.com/articles-187.asp Lawrence Taylor interview] ,
fhmonline.com, accessed February 23, 2007. ] retired and the team was taken over by Ray Handley. 1991 marked a steep decline in Taylor's production. It became the first season in his career that he did not make the Pro Bowl, after setting a then record by making it his first ten years in the league. Taylor finished with 7 sacks in 14 games and the Giants defense, while still respectable, was no longer one of the top units in the league.
Taylor rebounded in the early stages of what many thought would be his final season in 1992. Through close to 9 games Taylor was on pace for 10 sacks and the Giants were 5–4. [http://www.databasefootball.com/teams/teamyear.htm?tm=NYG&lg=nfl&yr=1992 1992 New York Giants] , databasefootball.com, accessed February 20, 2007. ] However, a ruptured
Achilles tendonsuffered in a November 8 game against Green Bay,Anderson, Dave. [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9E0CE7DB123FF935A25752C1A964958260 Sports of the Times; Life Without L.T. Begins, and Giants Find It a Struggle] , "The New York Times", November 16, 1992, accessed March 23, 2008. ] sidelined him for the final seven games, during which the team went 1–6. [ [http://www.databasefootball.com/teams/teamyear.htm?tm=NYG&lg=nfl&yr=1992 1992 New York Giants] , databasefootball.com, accessed February 18, 2007. ] Before the injury Taylor had missed only 4 games due to injury in his 12 year career, including two the previous year. Throughout the 1992 season, and the ensuing offseason, Taylor was noncomittal about his future, alternately saying he might retire, then later hinting he wanted a longer-term contract. [Eskenazi, Gerald. [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9F0CE6DB143AF932A05750C0A965958260 PRO FOOTBALL; Giants Want Taylor for a Year; He Wants More] , "The New York Times", March 31, 1993, accessed March 23, 2008. ]
Taylor returned for the 1993 season enticed by the chance to play with a new coach (the newly hired
Dan Reeves), and determined not to end his career due to injury. The Giants experienced a resurgent season in 1993. They finished 11–5 and competed for the top playoff seeds in the conference. [ [http://www.databasefootball.com/teams/teamyear.htm?tm=NYG&lg=nfl&yr=1993 1993 New York Giants] , databasefootball.com, accessed February 18, 2007. ] Taylor finished with 6 sacks, [http://www.databasefootball.com/teams/teamyear.htm?tm=NYG&lg=nfl&yr=1993 1993 New York Giants] , databasefootball.com, accessed February 18, 2007. ] and the Giants defense led the NFL in fewest points allowed. [ [http://www.databasefootball.com/leagues/leagueyear.htm?lg=nfl&yr=1993 1993 NFL Standings, Stats and Awards] , databasefootball.com, accessed March 15, 2007. ] The Giants played the Vikings in the first round of the playoffs and defeated them 17–10. The next week on January 15, 1994 in what would ultimately be Taylor's final game the Giants faced the 49ers and were beaten convincingly 44–3. As the game drew to a conclusion television cameras drew in close on Taylor who was visibly crying. Taylor announced his retirement at the post-game press conference saying, "I think it's time for me to retire. I've done everything I can do. I've been to Super Bowls. I've been to playoffs. I've done things that other people haven't been able to do in this game before. After 13 years, it's time for me to go." [Anderson, Dave. [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9801E1D61E31F935A25752C0A962958260Sports of The Times; L.T. Decides 'It's Time For Me to Go'] , "The New York Times", January 16, 1994, accessed March 23, 2008. ]
By the time Taylor retired, he had amassed 1,088 tackles, 132.5 sacks (not counting the 9.5 sacks he recorded as a rookie because sacks did not become an official statistic until 1982), 9 interceptions, 134 return yards, 2 touchdowns, 33 forced fumbles, 11 fumble recoveries, and 34 fumble return yards.
Impact on the NFL
Taylor is often considered to be one of the greatest defensive players in the history of football, [http://encarta.msn.com/encyclopedia_761579396/Lawrence_Taylor.html Lawrence Taylor] , encarta.msn.com, accessed January 29, 2007. For information on how to use this source see this . ] and has been ranked as the greatest defensive player in history by media members, former players, and coaches. [Smith and Moritz. Note: "The Sporting News" has Taylor ranked fourth behind only offensive players
Jim Brown, Jerry Rice, and Joe Montana. See [http://archive.sportingnews.com/nfl/100/ here] for a link to the full list which is at the top of the page (click the "The complete list").
* [http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/print?id=2823763&type=story Best defensive player in NFL history?] , espn.com, March 26, 2007, accessed April 17, 2007.
* Celizic, Mike. [http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/9218972/wid/6448213/ No way Rice is greatest player ever: 42-year-old might be best WR ever, but Brown, LT are best players] , msnbc.com, September 6, 2005, accessed February 24, 2007.
* Prisco, Pete. [http://sportsline.com/nfl/story/9905724 Year-End Awards: Can Tomlinson steal L.T. nickname?] , csbsportsline.com, January 3, 2007, accessed April 17, 2007.
* [http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/football/nfl/news/1999/01/27/taylor_pkg/ Does LT's conduct make him Hall of Fame worthy?] , sportsillustrated.cnn.com, accessed January 29, 2007.
* Joyner, K.C. [http://insider.espn.go.com/nfl/insider/columns/story?columnist=joyner_kc&id=3312830 Taylor's level of dominance not seen in today's game] , espn.com, March 27, 2008, accessed March 27, 2008.
* [http://archive.sportingnews.com/nfl/100/4.html TSN Top 100 football players of all time #4] , sportingnews.com, accessed January 29, 2007.
* Taylor and Serby. pgs. 251–260 ("Props" chapter, includes quotes from players and coaches)
* Feldman, Bruce. [http://insider.espn.go.com/espn/blog/index?entryID=2798343&searchName=feldman_bruce Ten who should be in] , espn.com, March 14, 2007, accessed May 6, 2007. ] He is also widely considered to be one of the most feared players to ever step onto the football field. [http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2004/09/10/60minutes/main642605.shtml L.T. Over The Edge: Former Hall Of Famer Reveals Shocking Stories From His Playing Days] , cbsnews.com, accessed January 29, 2007. ] Taylor's explosive speed and power is credited with having changed the position of outside linebacker from a "read and react" type of position to a more attacking, aggressive position. [ [http://espn.go.com/endofcentury/s/other/innovations.html End of Century - ESPN.com's Ten important innovations] , espn.com, accessed March 18, 2007.
* Frostino. pg. 204
* Montana and Weiner. pg. 207
* Kirwan, Pat. [http://www.nfl.com/news/story/9544216 Summer reading: The greatest game-changers] , NFL.com, July 7, 2006, accessed May 7, 2007.
* Rand. pg. ii ]
Washington Redskinscoach Joe Gibbsdeveloped the two tight endoffense and the position of h-backto prevent Taylor from blitzing into the backfield unhindered. [ [http://www.colts.com/sub.cfm?page=article7&news_id=4062 The Polian Corner] , colts.com, September 20, 2006, accessed March 18, 2007. ] As Gibbs stated, " [w] e had to try in some way have a special game plan just for Lawrence Taylor. Now you didn't do that very often in this league but I think he's one person that we learned the lesson the hard way. We lost ball games." His skills at outside linebacker forced other coaches to retool their offensive schemes to manage his impact. In the late 70's and early 80's, a blitzing linebacker was almost always picked up by a running back. However, these players were usually no match for Taylor. [ Schwartz. pg. 142 ] The tactic employed by Bill Walsh in the 1982 playoffs, namely of employing an offensive guard to block Taylor, began to be copied around the league. This move, however, left a hole in the offensive protection that a middle linebacker could exploit. Later, Walsh and other coaches began using offensive left tackles to block Taylor. Although Taylor made adjustments to his game to remain dominant, it soon became common in the NFL for offensive linemen to pick up blitzing linebackers, such as Taylor. In addition to the changes in offensive schemes Taylor influenced, he also introduced new defensive techniques to the game such as chopping the ball out of the quarterback's hands rather than tackling him.
Drugs and extreme measures
In contrast to his success on the football field, Taylor's personal life has been marred by drug usage and controversy. When Taylor was once asked what he could do that no outside linebacker could, his answer was, "Drink". However, alcohol abuse was not the largest of his substance abuse problems. After admitting to and testing positive for cocaine in 1987, he was suspended from football for 30 days in 1988 after failing a second drug test. After his second positive test he gave up drugs for five years as a third positive test would have ended his career. However, as he approached retirement he looked forward to picking up the habit again, saying in his second autobiography "I saw coke as the only bright spot in my future." [Taylor and Serby. pg. 161 ] After his retirement he began abusing drugs on a regular basis. He went through drug rehab twice in 1995, only to later be arrested twice over a three-year span for attempting to buy cocaine (from undercover officers). [ [http://espn.go.com/sportscentury/features/00016489.html Taylor ranked 40th-best athlete] , espn.com, accessed May 3, 2007. ] During this period Taylor lived almost exclusively in his home with white sheets covering his windows and only associated with other drug users. Taylor later stated, “I had gotten really bad. I mean my place was almost like a
crack house." In his first autobiography Taylor also admitted that he had begun using drugs as early as his second year in the NFL. [ Taylor and Falkner. pg. 125 ]
In a November 2003 interview with Mike Wallace on the television
newsmagazine" 60 Minutes", Taylor claimed he hired and sent prostitutes to opponents' hotel rooms the night before a game in an attempt to tire them out, and that at his peak, he spent thousands of dollars a day on narcotics. During the interview he also recounted several other instances of his hard-partying lifestyle during his years in the NFL, including an episode when he arrived to a team meeting in handcuffs after a night spent with some call girls. Taylor stated, "A couple of ladies that were trying out some new equipment they had. You know? And I just happened to, and they just didn't happen to have the key.” He also recounted that to beat NFL drug tests he would submit the urine of his teammates.
Post-NFL life and recovery
In Taylor's final year in the NFL (1993) he started a company called All-Pro Products. The company
went publicat $5 a share, and amazingly tripled in value during the first month of its existence. The stock price went up to $16.50 a share, at which point Taylor's stake had an estimated value of more than $10 million.Norris, Floyd. [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=990CE6DD103CF930A1575AC0A963958260 S.E.C. Says 3 Rigged Stock In Football Star's Company] , "The New York Times", September 23, 1995, accessed March 23, 2008. ] However, the company ceased production shortly thereafter and Taylor, who never sold his stock, lost several hundred thousand dollars. Taylor had been defrauded by several members of the penny stockfirm Hanover Sterling & Company, who had short sold the company's stock, making it worthless. [Henriques, Diana B. [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9B04EEDC1E39F93BA25757C0A960958260 And They All Came Tumbling Down;Short-Seller Levels a Wall St. Institution] , "The New York Times", April 18, 1996, accessed March 23, 2008. ] The Securities and Exchange Commissionruled that two traders had manipulated the price of the stock, [ [http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1355/is_n23_v88/ai_17639255 Ex-football star Lawrence Taylor falls victim to stock fraud.(Securities and Exchange Commission fines Robert Catoggio and Ronan Garber)] , "JET", October 16, 1995, accessed April 21, 2007. ] which skyrocketed while the company was losing over $900,000.
In the first few years after his career ended Taylor worked in several regular television jobs. Taylor initially worked as a football analyst for the now defunct "
TNT Sunday Night Football". For a brief time after that Taylor appeared as a personality in the WWF, defeating Bam Bam Bigelowin the main event of WrestleMania XI. He also worked as a color commentatoron an amateur fighting program entitled "Toughman" on the FX channel. [Associated Press. [http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4179/is_19990716/ai_n11731532 Strange: A broadcaster who still plays] , " The Topeka Capital-Journal", available online via findarticles.com, July 16, 1999, accessed April 11, 2007. ] On September 4, 1995, the Giants retired Phil Simmsjersey during halftimeof a game against the Cowboys. Simms decided to celebrate the moment by throwing an impromptu ceremonial pass to Taylor. Simms recalled, " [a] ll of a sudden it kind of hit me, I've put Lawrence in a really tough spot; national TV, he's got dress shoes and a sports jacket on, and he's had a few beers and he's going to run down the field and I'm going to throw him a pass." NFL Films, NFL Network, accessed April 22, 2007. ] Simms then motioned for Taylor to run a long pattern and after 30–40 yards threw him the pass. Taylor later commented that the situation made him more nervous than any play of his career, "I'm saying to myself (as the pass is being thrown), 'If I drop this pass, I got to run my black ass all the way back to Upper Saddle River because there ain't no way I'm going to be able to stay in that stadium'." Taylor caught the pass, however, and the capacity crowd in attendance cheered in approval. [George, Thomas. [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=990CE0DA1639F936A3575AC0A963958260 ON PRO FOOTBALL; The Giants' Best Play Of the Dallas Game Was Simms to L. T.] , "The New York Times", September 5, 1995, accessed March 23, 2008. ]
Taylor has recently been pursuing a career in acting, appearing in the
Oliver Stonemovie, " Any Given Sunday" where he played a character very much like himself. He also appeared as himself in both the HBOseries " The Sopranos" and the film " The Waterboy". Taylor later appeared with Samuel L. Jackson, Richard Roundtree, Christian Bale, Jeffrey Wright, Vanessa L. Williams, Toni Colletteand Busta Rhymesin the 2000 version of "Shaft". Taylor also added his voice to the controversial video game, ', playing the steroid-riddled, possibly insane former football player B.J. Smith, a character that poked fun at his fearsome, drug-fueled public image. He also added his voice to the controversial video game ', which was partially based on his life in the NFL. [Thomas, Vincent. [http://www.sptimes.com/2006/01/01/Sports/New_video_games_hype_.shtml New video games hype bawdy off-field antics] , " St. Petersburg Times", January 1, 2006, accessed February 24, 2007. ]
In 1999, when Taylor became eligible for the
Pro Football Hall of Fame, there were some concerns that his hard-partying lifestyle and drug abuse would hurt his candidacy. [http://media.cnnsi.com/football/nfl/news/1999/01/30/halloffame_voting/ LT gets the OK] , sportsillustrated.cnn.com, January 30, 1999, accessed May 3, 2007. ] These concerns proved to be ill-founded, however, as he was voted in on the first ballot. His son Lawrence Taylor Jr. gave his introduction speech at the induction ceremony. [http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/football/nfl/news/1999/08/07/halloffame_ceremony_ap/ Five for the ages: Pro Football Hall of Fame inducts five more members] , sportsillustrated.cnn.com, accessed February 17, 2007. ] Taylor's wife, his three children, and his parents were in attendance and during his induction speech Taylor acknowledged them saying, " [t] hank you for putting up with me for all those years." He also credited former Giants owner Wellington Marafor being supportive of him saying, " [h] e probably cared more about me as a person than he really should have."
In recent years, Taylor has cleaned up his life and lived a healthy, clean lifestyle since 1998.Anderson, Dave. [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9A02EEDD153AF93BA15752C1A9659C8B63 PRO FOOTBALL; Losing Himself to Find Himself] , "The New York Times", November 28, 2003, accessed March 23, 2008. ] Taylor's soul-wrenching admission with Mike Wallace in 2003 reignited his popularity with the public. Taylor often speaks of his playing career, which he played with reckless abandon, and the drug-abusing stages of his life as the "L.T." periods of his life. Taylor described "L.T." as an adrenaline junkie who lived life on a thrill ride. Taylor commented in 2003 that "L. T. died a long time ago, and I don't miss him at all...all that's left is Lawrence Taylor." In July 2006 Taylor again re-emerged into the public eye, appearing on the cover of a "
Sports Illustrated" issue dedicated to former athletes and sport figures. In the magazine Taylor credited his hobby of golfwith helping him get over his previous hard-partying ways and drug filled lifestyle. ["Sports Illustrated". Volume 105, issue 1. July 3, 2006. ]
Taylor is a founding partner at eXfuze, a network marketing company based in West Palm Beach, Florida. Along with former NFL greats such as Eric Dickerson and Seth Joyner, he is a spokesman for Seven+, the flagship multi-botanical drink produced by the company. [http://www.exfuze.com/AllStars.aspx]
Taylor has appeared in voiced many people and had his likeness in many videogames. He voiced B.J. Smith a former football player in who poked fun at his drug-filled life and image. Taylor added his voice to the controversial video game series as
Quentin Sandsthe game's antagonist who has Taylor's number 56 the number he wore in the NFL, Taylor also appears as Sands in the sequel . He appears in a cut-scene in NCAA Football 06 from his University of North Carolinaplaying days and appears in the game on the All-Time team as 1980 UNC OLB.
*Unofficial statistic (sacks did not become an official statistic until 1982), however this number is stated on Taylor's Pro Football Hall of Fame bio, and is considered to be accurate. **This total includes the 9.5 Taylor unofficially recorded as a rookie. However, the NFL officially recognizes 132.5 sacks for Taylor.
Key to Abbreviations
GP= Games Played
t= Play resulted in a touchdown
FR= Fumbles Recovered
History of the New York Giants (1979-1993)
*Danyluk, Tom. "Super '70s", Chicago: Mad Uke Publishing. 2005 ISBN 0977038300
*Eskenazi, Gerald. "A Sports-Writer's Life: From the Desk of a New York Times Reporter", Columbia:
University of Missouri Press. 2004 ISBN 0826215106
*Frostino, Nino. "Right on the Numbers", British Columbia:
Trafford Publishing. 2004 ISBN 1412033055
*Goodman, Michael E. "Lawrence Taylor (Sports Close Ups 2)", Minneapolis: Crestwood House. 1988 ISBN 0896863654
*Gutman, Bill. "Parcells: A Biography", New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers. 2001 ISBN 0786709340
*Harris, Othello, Nolte, Claire Elaine, and Kirsch, George B. "Encyclopedia of Ethnicity and Sports in the United States", Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 2000 ISBN 0313299110
*Liss, Howard. "The Lawrence Taylor Story", Berkeley Heights: Enslow Publishing Incorporated. 1987 ISBN 0894901362
*Montana, Joe, and Weiner, Richard. "Joe Montana's Art and Magic of Quarterbacking: The Secrets of the Game from One of the All-Time Best", Ontario: Owl Books, 1998 ISBN 0805042784
*Neft, David S., Cohen, Richard M., and Korch, Rick. "The Complete History of Professional Football from 1892 to the Present." New York: St. Martin's Press. 1994 ISBN 0312114354
*Powell, Adam. "University of North Carolina Football", South Carolina:
Arcadia Publishing. 2006 ISBN 0738542881
*Schwartz, Paul. "Tales from the New York Giants Sideline", Illinois: Sports Publishing LLC. 2004 ISBN 1582617589
*Shampoe, Clay. "The Virginia Sports Hall Of Fame: Honoring Champions Of The Commonwealth", South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing. 2005 ISBN 0738517763
*Rand, Jonathan. "Riddell Presents the Gridiron's Greatest Linebackers", Illinois: Sports Publishing LLC. 2003 ISBN 1582616256
*Smith, Ron and Moritz, Carl. "The Sporting News Selects Football's 100 Greatest Players: A Celebration of the 20th Century's Best", Missouri: Sporting News Publishing Co. 1999 ISBN 0-892-04624-4
*Sprechman, Jordan and Shannon, Bill. "This Day in New York Sports", Illinois: Sports Publishing LLC. 1998 ISBN 1571672540
*Taylor, Lawrence and Falkner, David. "LT: Living on the Edge" New York:
Random House. 1987 ISBN 0812917030
*Taylor, Lawrence and Serby, Steve. "LT: Over the Edge Tackling Quarterbacks, Drugs, and a World Beyond Football." New York:
HarperCollins. 2003 ISBN 0060185511
*Taylor, Lawrence. "Taylor (Icons of the NFL)", New York: Rugged Land. 2006 ISBN 1590710827
SHORT DESCRIPTION=Hall of Fame American football player.
DATE OF BIRTH=February 4, 1959
PLACE OF BIRTH=Williamsburg, Virginia
DATE OF DEATH=
PLACE OF DEATH=
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