This week the Miami Dolphins will watch as Jason Taylor takes his place in the Pro-Football Hall of Fame, thus capping his NFL career.
To some players, the NFL Hall of Fame is the pinnacle of their success to others it is the pinnacle of their success on the field. For Jason Taylor it’s the latter. Taylor continues his success not on the football field but in the community that he now calls home. To those in south Florida who benefit from the Jason Taylor Foundation, Jason’s career is still ongoing.
On Saturday night Jason Taylor a skinny kid from Pennsylvania who played his college football about 30 miles north of Canton will be enshrined into that legion of historical football figures and he says he owes a lot of that to former coach Jimmy Johnson who will present him to the Hall of Fame.
In 1997 as I sat and watched the NFL Draft there was one player that I wanted the Dolphins to draft. In fact as far back as I can remember, Jason Taylor was the only player that I really banged my fists for who actually got drafted by Miami. I wanted him taken in the 2nd round. When the Dolphins passed, I was not happy. Such was the life of a fan on draft day. A life we all know far too well.
It’s hard to argue with the second round pick Miami did make. Sam Madison is one of the best corner-backs to play for the Dolphins, a spectacular personality who has stayed involved with the team and is a big part of the Dolphins community and fan-base. But I wanted Jason Taylor.
In round one the Dolphins opted for wide-receiver Yatil Green. He was supposed to be the Michael Irvin for the Dolphins, a weapon for Dan Marino that could stretch the field. Green hurt himself in training camp and finished his NFL career with 18 total receptions.
I was never sure what drew me to Jason Taylor. Perhaps maybe because he was the underdog. I read about him, I lived up north in the Cleveland, Toledo, and Detroit suburbs throughout those years of his college days. He wasn’t a front page headlining player but something stood out.
When the third round started I figured there was no way he would fall but I kept hearing that many believed he couldn’t make the transition to the NFL. Too small, too lanky the said. Not a prototype DE/LB. I read he would need to bulk up and was best suited in situational play.
Here we are 20 years later and Taylor is going into he Hall of Fame. When his name was called I jumped off the bar stool I was sitting in. Watching the draft with a bunch of football fans in the middle of a Saturday afternoon. They thought I was crazy. I knew I wasn’t. I thought there was something special in Jason Taylor. Do you know what it was? It was the way he talked about football, his family, and himself. There was no overpowering ego or self-righteous bull, there was a humble kid who loved the game and was willing to do whatever the coaches wanted him to. There was a kid that wasn’t spewing “I’m going to prove them all wrong” but instead a kid who only wanted a chance to prove them all wrong.
Jason Taylor entered the NFL with no expectations from anyone other than himself. The burden to succeed the challenge that he owned and when he finished writing the script he didn’t just end it with an exclamation point, (although that near touchdown in his final game would have done it) no Jason Taylor ended his career the way he came into the league. With a period. The same way he came in. A humbled man from the Pennsylvania-Ohio Valley who loved to play the game and prove to himself that he belonged.
For all his stats, his sacks, and tackles, Taylor didn’t change much as he grew through the NFL. Sure, he “danced with the stars” and had his days in the off-field limelight but through it all, he is still that same kid walking onto a football field in the NFL for the first time. Proving that he can do it.
On Saturday he can say he did it. I’m not sure what his acceptance speech will entail but it’s likely to be emotional and from his soul. The same way he played and the same way he works in the community now.
Congratulations Jason Taylor, see you on Saturday!