|Birth Day:||February 4, 1959|
|Birth Place:||Willamsburg, United States|
New York Giants linebacker known as "LT" who is considered by many to be the greatest linebacker ever. Lawrence Taylor was a 2-time Super Bowl Champion, 10-time Pro Bowl selection, and the 1986 NFL Most Valuable Player. Lawrence Taylor retired with 132.5 career sacks and 1,088 tackles.
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Lawrence Taylor played college football at the University of North Carolina, where he was an All-American in 1980. Lawrence Taylor was taken second overall in the 1981 NFL Draft.
After graduating from Lafayette High School in 1977, Taylor attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where he was a team captain, and wore No. 98. Originally recruited as a defensive lineman, Taylor switched to linebacker before the 1979 season. He had 16 sacks in his final year there (1980), and set numerous defensive records. He was recognized as a consensus first-team All-American and the Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year in 1980. While there the coaching staff marveled at his intense, reckless style 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.
In the 1981 NFL Draft, Taylor was drafted by the NFL's New York Giants in the first round as the 2nd pick overall. In a poll of NFL General Managers (GMs) taken before the draft 26 of the league's 28 GMs said if they had the first selection they would select Taylor. One of the two GMs who said they would not take Taylor was Bum Phillips, who had just been hired as coach and general manager by the New Orleans Saints. As fate would have it for Taylor, the Saints were also the team who had the first pick in the draft. Giants GM George Young 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."
Taylor's talent was evident from the start of training camp. Reports came out of the Giants training compound of the exploits of the new phenom. Taylor's teammates took to calling him Superman and joked that his locker should be replaced with a phone booth. Phil Simms, the team's quarterback, said, "on 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." Taylor made his NFL exhibition debut on August 8, 1981, recording 2 sacks in the Giants' 23–7 win over the Chicago Bears. Before the season word spread around the league about Taylor. Years after facing him in an exhibition game, Pittsburgh Steelers Quarterback Terry Bradshaw recalled, "[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."
Taylor made his NFL regular season debut on September 6, 1981, in a 24–10 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. Aside from incurring a penalty for a late hit on Eagles running back Perry Harrington, Taylor played a nondescript game. In a game versus the St. Louis Cardinals later in the season, Taylor rushed and sacked the passer when he was supposed to drop into coverage. When told by Parcells that was not what he was assigned to do on that play, and that what he did was not in the playbook, Taylor responded "Well, we better put it in on Monday, because that play's a dandy." He recorded 9.5 sacks in 1981, and his rookie season is considered one of the best in NFL history. He was named 1981's NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year, making him as of 2020 the only rookie to win an Offensive or Defensive Player of the Year award. Taylor's arrival helped the Giants defense reduce their points allowed from 425 points in 1980 to 257 in 1981. They finished the season 9–7, up five games from the previous season, and advanced to the NFL divisional playoffs, where they lost 38–24 to the eventual Super Bowl champion San Francisco 49ers. The San Francisco win was due partly to a new tactic 49ers coach Bill Walsh used to slow 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 as effective as normal. In contrast to his on-field success Taylor was already developing a reputation for recklessness off the field; after nearly getting killed during the season when his speeding resulted in a car crash, Young told the team's trainer he would be surprised if the linebacker lived past the age of 30, and the Giants insured Taylor's life for $2 million.
The 1982 NFL season, which was shortened to nine regular season games by a players strike, included one of the more memorable plays of Taylor's career. In the nationally televised Thanksgiving Day game against the Detroit Lions, the teams were tied 6–6 early in the fourth quarter, when the Lions drove deep into New York territory. Lions quarterback Gary Danielson dropped back to pass and threw the ball out to his left toward the sidelines. Taylor ran in front of the intended receiver, intercepted the pass, and returned it 97 yards for a touchdown. This play was indicative of Taylor's unusual combination, even for a linebacker, of power with speed. He was again named Defensive Player of the Year.
After the 1982 season, Perkins became head coach of the University of Alabama and the Giants hired Parcells to replace him. In the coming years this change proved 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 he came back to the team under his old contract with three games left in the preseason.
Washington Redskins head coach Joe Gibbs developed the two tight end offense and the position of H-back to prevent Taylor from blitzing into the backfield unhindered. "We 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 changed the way offensive coaches blocked linebackers. In the late '70s and early '80s, a blitzing linebacker was picked up by a running back. However, these players were no match for Taylor. The tactic employed by San Francisco 49ers head coach Bill Walsh in the 1982 playoffs, using an offensive guard to block Taylor, was copied around the league. However, this left a hole in pass protection that a blitzing middle linebacker could exploit. Later, Walsh and other coaches began using offensive tackles to block Taylor. Later it became common for offensive linemen to pick up blitzing linebackers. 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.
Although Taylor recorded nine sacks and made the All-Pro team for the third consecutive season in 1983, the Giants struggled. The team went 3–12–1, and Parcells received heavy criticism from fans and the media. Taylor was forced to play inside linebacker for part of the season, a position which allowed him fewer pass rushing opportunities, when Carson was injured. Despite this change, Taylor made the 1983 All-Pro Team at both outside linebacker and inside linebacker, becoming the first first-team All-Pro in NFL History selected for two positions in the same year. Frustrated by the losing, Taylor began acting out by arriving late for meetings, and not participating in conditioning drills in practice. After the season, Taylor was involved in a fight for his services between the Giants and the New Jersey Generals of the United States Football League. Taylor was given a $1 million interest-free, 25-year loan by Generals owner Donald Trump on December 14, 1983, with the provision that he begin playing in the USFL in 1988. Taylor regretted the decision, and less than a month later attempted to renege. His agent was able to negotiate by meeting with Trump personally and then the Giants which resulted in allowing Taylor to go with the Giants. Taylor got a 6-year, $6.55 million package that also included a $1 million interest-free loan. The main results of these negotiations were threefold: 1) Taylor returned the $1 million to Trump, 2) the Giants paid Trump $750,000 over the next five seasons, and 3) the Giants gave Taylor a new six-year, $6.2 million contract.
The Giants' record rebounded to 9–7 in 1984, and Taylor had his fourth All-Pro season. He got off to a quick start, recording four sacks in a September game. In the playoffs the Giants defeated the Los Angeles Rams 16–13, but lost 21–10 to the eventual champion 49ers.
In 1986, Taylor had one of the most successful seasons by a defensive player in the history of the NFL. He recorded a league-leading 20.5 sacks and became one of just two defensive players to win the NFL Most Valuable Player award and the only defensive player to be the unanimous selection for MVP. He also was named Defensive Player of the Year for the third time. The Giants finished the season 14–2 and outscored San Francisco and Washington by a combined score of 66–3 in the NFC playoffs. He appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated alone the week leading up to Super Bowl XXI with a warning from the magazine to the Denver Broncos regarding Taylor. The Giants overcame a slow start in Super Bowl XXI to defeat Denver 39–20. Taylor made a key touchdown preventing tackle on a goal line play in the first half, stopping Broncos quarterback John Elway as he sprinted out on a rollout.
In 1987, he finally tested positive for cocaine, and admitted to using it. The next year, 1988, he failed a second drug test, whereupon the NFL suspended him for 30 days. With that, he abstained from drugs until his 1993 retirement, as a third failed drug test would end his career. Yet he would later recall that in retiring, "I saw blow as the only bright spot in my future."
The Giants looked to rebound to their championship ways in 1988 but the start of the season was marred by controversy surrounding Taylor. He 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 1987 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. 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 Henderson and others whose drug problems derailed their careers. The Giants went 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 12 games played. 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. Taylor's presence in the lineup was important as the Giants' offense was having trouble mounting drives, and was dominated in time of possession. Television cameras repeatedly cut to the sidelines to show him in extreme physical pain as he was being attended to by the Giants staff. Taylor had already developed a reputation for playing through pain; in a 1983 game against the Eagles the team's training staff had to hide his helmet to prevent the injured Taylor from returning to the field. Taylor's shoulder was so 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." However, the Giants narrowly missed the playoffs in 1988 at 10–6 by losing tie-breakers with the Eagles in their division and the Rams for the Wild card.
In 1989, Taylor recorded 15 sacks. He was forced to play the latter portion of the season with a fractured tibia, suffered in a 34–24 loss to the 49ers in week 12, which caused him to sit out the second half of several games. Despite his off-the-field problems, Taylor remained popular among his teammates and was voted defensive co-captain along with Carl Banks. The two filled the defensive captain's spot vacated by the retired Harry Carson. The retirement of the nine-time Pro Bowler Carson, broke up the Giants linebacker corps of Carson, Reasons, Banks, and Taylor, which spearheaded the team's defense nicknamed the "Big Blue Wrecking Crew" in the 1980s. The Giants went 12–4, 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.
Following the 1990 season, Parcells, with whom Taylor had become very close, 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 in which he failed to make the Pro Bowl squad, after setting a then record by making it in 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 nine games, Taylor was on pace for 10 sacks and the Giants were 5–4. However, a ruptured Achilles tendon suffered in a game on November 8, 1992, against Green Bay sidelined him for the final seven games, during which the team went 1–6. Before the injury Taylor had missed only four games due to injury in his 12-year career. Throughout the 1992 season, and the ensuing offseason, Taylor was noncommittal about his future, alternately saying he might retire, then later hinting he wanted a longer-term contract.
Taylor returned for the 1993 season enticed by the chance to play with a new coach (Dan Reeves), and determined not to end his career due to an injury. The Giants had a resurgent season in 1993. They finished 11–5, and competed for the top NFC playoff seed. Taylor finished with 6 sacks, and the Giants defense led the NFL in fewest points allowed. They defeated the Minnesota Vikings 17–10 in the opening round of the playoffs. The next week on January 15, 1994, in what would be Taylor's final game, the Giants were beaten 44–3 by the San Francisco 49ers. As the game came to a conclusion, television cameras drew in close on Taylor who was crying. He 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."
During 1995, he went through drug rehab twice. But over the next three years, he was arrested twice, via undercover police officers, for attempts to buy cocaine. Meanwhile, he associated mainly with drug users, and his home usually had white sheets over its windows. "I had gotten really bad. I mean my place was almost like a crack house," Taylor would later explain.
After his career ended, Taylor worked in several regular television jobs. He first worked as a football analyst for the now defunct TNT Sunday Night Football. In a one-off show, Taylor also appeared as a wrestler in the World Wrestling Federation, defeating Bam Bam Bigelow in the main event of WrestleMania XI. He also worked as a color commentator on an amateur fighting program entitled Toughman on the FX channel. On September 4, 1995, the Giants retired Phil Simms' jersey during halftime of a game against the Cowboys (Taylor had his number retired the year before). Simms celebrated 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." Simms motioned for Taylor to run a long pattern and after 30–40 yards threw him the pass. Taylor later said 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.
In Taylor's final year in the NFL, he started a company called All-Pro Products. The company went public at $5 a share, and tripled in value during its first month. The stock price reached $16.50 a share, at which point Taylor's stake had an estimated value of over $10 million. The company ceased production shortly thereafter however, and Taylor, who never sold his stock, lost several hundred thousand dollars. He had been defrauded by several members of the penny stock firm Hanover Sterling & Company, who had short sold the company's stock, making it worthless. The Securities and Exchange Commission ruled that two traders had manipulated the price of the stock, which skyrocketed while the company was losing over $900,000. Taylor has also had self-inflicted financial problems; in 1997 he pleaded guilty to filing a false tax return in 1990, and in 2000 he was "sentenced to three months of house arrest, five years of probation, and 500 hours of community service for tax evasion."
In 1999, when Taylor became eligible for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, there were some concerns his hard-partying lifestyle and drug abuse would hurt his candidacy. 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. Taylor's ex-wife, his three children, and his parents were in attendance and during his induction speech Taylor acknowledged them saying, "thank you for putting up with me for all those years." He also credited former Giants owner Wellington Mara for being supportive of him saying, "[h]e probably cared more about me as a person than he really should have."
Taylor pursued a career in acting, appearing in the Oliver Stone movie Any Given Sunday where he played a character much like himself. He appeared as himself in the HBO series The Sopranos and the film The Waterboy. He also had a role in the 2000 version of Shaft. Taylor voiced the steroid-riddled, possibly insane former football player B.J. Smith in the video game, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. The character poked fun at his fearsome, drug-fueled public image. He also added his voice to the video game Blitz: The League and its sequel, which were partially based on his life in the NFL. He also acted in the 2000 Christian film Mercy Streets with Eric Roberts and Stacy Keach, and the 2003 prison movie In Hell with Jean-Claude Van Damme.
In 2004 Taylor released an autobiography, LT: Over the Edge. Taylor often spoke of his NFL years, which he played with reckless abandon, and the drug-abusing stages of his life as the "L.T." periods of his life. He described "L.T." as an adrenaline junkie who lived life on a thrill ride. Taylor said 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."
Taylor re-emerged into the public eye in July 2006, after appearing on the cover of a Sports Illustrated issue dedicated to former athletes and sport figures. In the magazine, Taylor credited his hobby of golf with helping him get over his previous hard-partying ways and drug filled lifestyle. He co-founded eXfuze, a network marketing company based in West Palm Beach, Florida. Along with former NFL players, such as Eric Dickerson and Seth Joyner, he was a spokesman for Seven+, the flagship multi-botanical drink produced by the company. His son Brandon signed a national letter to play with the Purdue Boilermakers. Taylor was a contestant on the 8th season of Dancing with the Stars, partnered with Edyta Śliwińska. He was eliminated in the seventh week on the April 21, 2009, show.
In 2009, Taylor started having troubles in his personal life again. On November 8, he was arrested in Miami-Dade County, Florida for leaving the scene of an accident after striking another vehicle with his Cadillac Escalade. He had already committed the same offense in 1996 when he totaled his Lexus in a one-car accident and left the scene, saying he did not think the law required the reporting of a single driver incident. He was released on a $500 bond, and the other driver later sued him, seeking $15,000.
In May 2010, Taylor was arrested for having sex with a 16-year-old girl at a Holiday Inn located in Montebello, New York. He was charged with felony third-degree statutory rape, for allegedly engaging in sexual intercourse with someone under 17. He was also charged with third-degree patronization for allegedly paying the underage girl $300 to have sex with him. The girl was represented by celebrity attorney Gloria Allred when Taylor pleaded guilty on March 22, 2011, and was sentenced to six years probation as part of a plea agreement, in which he pleaded guilty to the misdemeanors of sexual misconduct and patronizing a prostitute. He also registered as a low-risk, level-one sex offender. On October 26, 2012, a court rejected the victim's claims that Taylor assaulted her.
As of 2016, Taylor resides in Pembroke Pines, Florida. On June 9, 2016, Taylor's wife was arrested for domestic violence in Florida after she threw "an unknown object" and struck Taylor in the back of the head.
In May 2017, Taylor put up for auction the Vince Lombardi mini statue he had won for the Super Bowl XXV win. The next month, he pleaded guilty to driving under the influence of alcohol following a September 2, 2016 crash into a stopped police car in Palm Beach County, Florida. The two breathalyzer tests taken five hours after the crash measured Taylor's blood-alcohol level at .082 and .084, above the Florida legal limit of .080.
Currently, Lawrence Taylor is 64 years, 1 months and 27 days old. Lawrence Taylor will celebrate 65th birthday on a Sunday 4th of February 2024.
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