Who’s the best player in Jacksonville Jaguars franchise history?
Chances are the first name that comes to mind is Fred Taylor.
Taylor, who has missed several chances to make it into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in recent years, should get a bust in Canton someday.
We’re talking about a versatile running back who established forty-two Jaguars franchise records during his eleven-year stint in Jacksonville.
On that note, one can argue Fred Taylor is the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Frederick Antwon “Fred” Taylor was born on January 27, 1976 in Pahokee, FL.
Taylor’s mother gave birth to him when she was just fifteen years old.
Since she couldn’t raise him properly at that age, Taylor’s grandmother, Rosetta Lusane, did the honors.
Whenever Taylor got in trouble growing up, Lusane would straighten him out with a switch from a tree.
“She did a real good job,” Taylor told the Los Angeles Times’ Steve Springer in January 2000. “Everything I have, everything I am, I know I owe it all to her.”
Taylor showed flashes of his greatness on the gridiron at Glades Central High School in Belle Glade, FL.
He started out as a freshman defensive end.
However, first-year Glades Central Raiders head coach Rick Casko switched him to the running back position during his junior season, per the South Florida Sun-Sentinel’s Ray Murray.
The rest, as they say, is history.
The position change brought out the best in Taylor, who gashed defenses with his footwork and ability to burst through holes opened up by his linemen.
As a senior, Taylor amassed 1,722 yards on the ground and twenty-two touchdowns.
He even exploded for 301 yards and five touchdowns in one game.
In his first game as a senior, Taylor scored on a 33-yard run on his first carry in the season opener against Cardinal Newman.
He finished the game with 134 yards and two touchdowns on just seven carries.
As a seventeen-year-old senior running back in 1993, Taylor was Florida’s No. 1 high school running back.
9️⃣ days until the @NFLDraft!
— ESPN WEST PALM (106.3 FM) (@ESPNWestPalm) April 14, 2020
SuperPrep also ranked him the eighth-best high school running back in the nation that year, per Murray.
Fourteen years later, when Taylor was a ten-year NFL veteran with the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) named him one of the state’s “100 Greatest Players of the First 100 Years.”
Fred Taylor wasn’t a one-dimensional tailback.
In fact, Casko lauded Taylor for his run blocking skills, per Murray:
“He’s done a great job blocking. That was my challenge to him this year. I said, ‘We know what you can run, but what can you do without the ball?'”
“Fred’s very unselfish. He doesn’t ever talk about carrying the ball more. Fred does what’s going to help in the future.”
Taylor’s track and field background helped him develop his speed on the gridiron.
He competed in the 100-meter, 200-meter, and 4 x 100-meter relay events as a Glades Central Raiders letterman.
Taylor’s combination of athleticism, blocking abilities, and speed would serve him well in the next chapter of his football journey: the University of Florida.
College Days With The Florida Gators
Florida Gators head football coach Steve Spurrier knew about Fred Taylor’s big-time running abilities during his high school days at Glades Central High School.
“Fred Taylor was obviously the big recruit coming out of high school,” Spurrier told the Orlando Sentinel’s Chris Harry in January 1997. “He had all the records, long runs, and touchdowns. They didn’t throw the ball very much down there in Belle Glade.”
Spurrier wasn’t just Taylor’s college football coach.
He was also his saving grace whenever he got himself in trouble off the field.
Taylor received suspensions for the season openers of his sophomore and junior seasons at Florida for doing what mischievous college kids do.
First, he treated some freshman players to pizza using a stolen credit card.
He also hid a stolen book bag and threw eggs on Halloween.
Spurrier attended Taylor’s disciplinary hearings and helped him get back on the field.
For doing that, Taylor told Springer he considered the Gators head football coach a lifelong friend:
“I consider him not just a coach, but a friend. He was always there for me. He would go with me (to disciplinary hearings) which he didn’t always do for others.”
“He believed in me. He went to bat for me.”
For his part, Spurrier wasn’t bothered by Taylor’s off-field shenanigans. He did what normal college kids do.
Spurrier even told the Los Angeles Times he also threw a few eggs on Halloween during his college days at Florida.
While Fred Taylor acted his age off the gridiron, he showed poise and maturity on it.
Taylor relied on his afterburners and flashy moves to elude defenders during his freshman year at Florida in 1994.
However, Spurrier told Springer his freshman running back did too much shaking.
The Gators coaches helped get Taylor’s shoulder pads down.
The result: Taylor discovered a power running dimension at the college level.
When I am asked how did the Florida gators become my favorite team and I’m from MN. Simple Fred Taylor Swag. I was 6 his Sr. Year in the swamp got down by the field for warmups and the visor made he and the gators my favorite! pic.twitter.com/OvzeVB5MAq
— Coach Rob Griffin (@CoachRobG) April 9, 2021
Taylor broke out of the gates with 873 rushing yards and eight touchdowns on 171 carries in twelve games as a freshman.
With Taylor on board, the Gators won ten of twelve games during the 1994 NCAA season.
Florida also made its third Sugar Bowl appearance in the past four years.
Unfortunately, Taylor’s Gators lost to their in-state nemesis, the Florida State Seminoles, 23-17.
Taylor’s first-half fumble helped the Seminoles establish a 17-3 lead and they never looked back.
Fred Taylor played in just six games as a sophomore in 1995.
He rushed for 281 yards and five touchdowns that year.
The Gators went 12-1 in Spurrier’s sixth year at the helm.
However, they lost their second consecutive bowl game.
This time around, the Nebraska Cornhuskers pulverized Spurrier’s hapless Gators in the 1996 Fiesta Bowl in Tempe, AZ, 62-24.
The Florida defense couldn’t stop Nebraska running backs Lawrence Phillips and Tommie Frazier, who combined for five touchdowns.
During Taylor’s junior year at Florida, he continued splitting carries with Elijah Williams and Terry Jackson.
Taylor wound up with 629 yards and five touchdowns on 104 carries as a junior in 1996.
The Gators duplicated their gaudy 12-1 win-loss record from the season before.
Florida walloped Florida State in the Sugar Bowl on January 2, 1997, in New Orleans, LA, 52-20.
The victory avenged the Gators’ loss to the Seminoles in the Sugar Bowl two years earlier.
Taylor scored on a two-yard touchdown at the 11:28 mark of the second quarter to put Florida ahead after the PAT, 17-3.
Senior Gators quarterback Danny Wuerffel earned MVP honors with 306 passing yards and three touchdowns.
With a national title tucked under Taylor’s belt, he became the Gators’ featured running back and team captain during his senior year at Florida.
— Gators Digital (@gators_digital) June 21, 2018
Taylor more than doubled his production from his junior season with 1,292 yards and 13 touchdowns on 214 carries in eleven games during the 1997 NCAA campaign.
Consequently, Taylor earned First-Team All-SEC recognition.
Although Florida regressed slightly with a 10-2 win-loss mark, the sixth-ranked Gators beat the 11th-ranked Penn State Nittany Lions in the Citrus Bowl, 21-6.
Fred Taylor, who ran for 234 yards on 43 carries, was proclaimed the game’s MVP.
Taylor finished his college football career with 3,075 and 31 touchdowns, ranking him fourth in the school’s illustrious football program history.
Fred Taylor would remain in his home state of Florida for the majority of his National Football League career.
After winning just four games in their inaugural season in 1995, the Jacksonville Jaguars shook off their expansion woes in quick fashion.
Head coach Tom Coughlin’s squad posted a combined 20-12 win-loss record the next two seasons.
They would build on their momentum during Fred Taylor’s rookie year in 1998.
Despite winning eleven games during the 1997 NFL season, Jacksonville was an average rushing team.
The Jaguars’ 1,720 rushing yards ranked them 18th in the league.
Drafting a high-profile running back would help propel the team to elite status.
That’s exactly what the Jacksonville Jaguars did when they made Fred Taylor the ninth overall selection of the 1998 NFL Draft.
Taylor made an indelible impression on Coughlin.
“I never talked to a guy who was more forthright and honest,” he told the Los Angeles Times almost two years after the Jaguars drafted Taylor. “He was very humble. I have to give the credit to his grandmother. He never forgets his roots.”
Fred Taylor was no ordinary rookie running back.
He led all rookies with 1,223 yards on the ground.
Taylor also had six 100-yard rushing games and tied Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Randy Moss for the second-most touchdowns in the league with seventeen.
He also held his own against the league’s top running backs in 1998.
It was an impressive group that included Curtis Martin, Eddie George, Marshall Faulk, Emmitt Smith, Barry Sanders, and Terrell Davis.
Jacksonville duplicated its 11-5 win-loss mark from 1997.
Unfortunately, the Jags lost to the New York Jets in the Divisional Round, 34-24.
Taylor ran for 86 yards on 20 carries in his first postseason appearance.
He ran for 732 yards and six touchdowns on 159 carries in his second NFL season in 1999.
Jacksonville won a franchise-best fourteen games that season.
The Jags solidified their status as a bona fide Super Bowl contender in just their fifth year of existence.
— Ryan Day (@ryaneatscake) June 10, 2019
One of Taylor’s signature career moments occurred in the third quarter of the Jaguars’ lopsided 62-7 win over the Miami Dolphins in the Divisional Round.
Taylor ran for a 90-yard touchdown on the game’s 19th play.
Coincidentally, it was also the last game of legendary Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino.
Jacksonville’s Super Bowl aspirations fell short when they lost to the Tennessee Titans in the AFC Championship Game, 33-14.
Taylor ran for 110 yards on 19 carries in the loss.
The three years including the 1999 NFL campaign were the most injury-riddled in Fred Taylor’s NFL career.
During that span, he took the field just twenty-three times out of a possible forty-eight games.
Jaguars fans turned on their running back, calling him “Fragile Fred.”
Nonetheless, Taylor racked up an impressive 1,399 yards on the ground in his third pro season.
It was the second-most he amassed during his 13-year NFL career.
Sadly, Taylor’s injury woes would mark the beginning of the franchise’s downfall.
The Jaguars won just a combined thirteen games in his third and fourth pro seasons.
Jacksonville would go on to endure sixteen losing seasons in the next twenty-three years.
Taylor also went through a tumultuous period in his personal life.
In the fall of 1999, his agent, Tank Black, defrauded him of $3.6 million in a pyramid scheme fiasco.
That was the money Taylor entrusted to Black. It included the entirety of his 1998 signing bonus after taxes, per SI.com’s L. Jon Wertheim.
It would take another twelve years before Taylor forgave Black.
Already hampered by a nagging strained left hamstring, Taylor became despondent and depressed. He eventually slapped Black with a lawsuit.
“I was very, very upset,” he told Wertheim. “A go-grab-a-gun type of upset.”
Things got so bad Taylor even contemplated early retirement, per Jaguars.com.
Despite the off-field tribulation, Taylor regained his health on the gridiron.
He ran for at least 1,224 yards and scored a combined sixteen touchdowns in three consecutive seasons from 2002 to 2004.
Better yet, he missed just two games during that stretch.
— Johnny Kinsley (@Brickwallblitz) August 24, 2018
Regrettably, the Jaguars failed to contend for the postseason during Taylor’s three breakout years.
Although the injury bug bit Fred Taylor again in 2005, it wasn’t as bad.
Taylor sat out five games and ran for 787 yards and three touchdowns that year.
The Jaguars clawed their way back to contention with a 12-4 win-loss record under third-year head coach Jack Del Rio.
Unfortunately, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots squashed Jacksonville’s Super Bowl hopes with a resounding 28-3 win at Gillette Stadium on January 7, 2006.
The Patriots’ relentless rush defense limited Taylor to a paltry 24 yards on eight carries.
Nevertheless, as a thirty-year-old Fred Taylor entered his ninth NFL season in 2006, he still had a lot left in his tank.
He ran for a combined 2,348 yards and ten touchdowns in 30 games over the next two years.
Taylor, who was named Jaguars team captain, earned Pro Bowl and Second-Team All-Pro honors in 2007.
As Taylor approached the twilight of his pro football career, the Jaguars experienced several up-and-down seasons.
The Jags won eleven games and reached the Divisional Round the year Taylor became a Pro Bowler.
Their postseason tormentors, the New England Patriots, beat them again, 31-20.
Taylor rushed for 47 yards on 13 carries in his seventh career postseason game.
Jacksonville took a huge step backward in 2008.
The Jaguars won just five games and missed the postseason for the seventh time in the past nine years.
Taylor’s 556 rushing yards were the fewest he produced since his injury-ravaged 2001 season (he ran for just 116 yards in two games that year due to injury).
Taylor’s thumb injury also forced the Jaguars to place him on injured reserve for the first time in his career on December 11, 2008.
The Jaguars eventually released Taylor on February 17, 2009.
The 33-year old running back, who spent eleven years in Jacksonville, was due $6 million in the 2009 NFL season, per ESPN.
At the time of Taylor’s release, Del Rio turned the featured running back reins over to Maurice Jones-Drew.
This guys is the most underrated player ever to play in the national football league and should be a Hall of Famer!! He made one pro bowl as an alternate which is bs! Fred Taylor you are a legend bro!! @Jaguars pic.twitter.com/iB6FQ5127a
— DeAngelo Williams (@DeAngeloRB) May 1, 2019
Fred Taylor is the Jacksonville Jaguars’ all-time leading rusher with 11,271 yards.
He holds forty-one other franchise records, including rushing attempts in a career (2,428), season (345), and game (37).
Taylor is also fourth in points scored (402), fifth in career receptions (286), and sixth in receiving yards (2,361).
It bears repeating: Taylor wasn’t a one-dimensional running back. He did a bit of everything for the Jaguars.
Jones-Drew, a dynamic running back who currently works as an analyst for the NFL Network, singled out Taylor as his top NFL teammate in a blog he wrote in June 2020:
“Taylor was an exceptional running back and teammate. He had the speed, quickness, natural ability, and vision to tear up defenses, but his understanding of the game and the way he studied his opponent put him at another level.”
Ten days after Taylor’s release from the Jaguars, he agreed to a two-year, $5 million deal with the New England Patriots, per ESPN’s Len Pasquarelli.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick also praised Taylor.
He told Pasquarelli he had “tremendous respect” for the twelve-year NFL veteran.
The Patriots, perennial Super Bowl contenders, won a combined twenty-four games during Taylor’s two-year tenure in New England from 2009 to 2010.
Unfortunately, Taylor – who rushed for a total of 424 yards and four touchdowns in 13 games as a Patriot – never won that elusive Super Bowl ring.
He signed a one-day contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars on September 2, 2011.
The move allowed him to retire as a member of the team that drafted him ninth overall thirteen years earlier.
Taylor entered the Jaguars’ Ring of Honor – the Pride of the Jaguars – on September 30, 2012.
Fred Taylor concluded his memorable thirteen-year NFL career with 11,695 yards and 66 touchdowns on 2,534 receptions in 153 games.
Football runs in Fred Taylor’s blood.
He’s the first cousin of former Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Jets wide receiver Santonio Holmes.
Taylor’s son Kelvin is also a former Florida Gators running back. The San Francisco 49ers selected the younger Taylor in the sixth round of the 2016 NFL Draft.
Fred Taylor is a member of the 13th-anniversary class inducted into the Florida-Georgia Hall of Fame.
Taylor won three of four games against the Georgia Bulldogs during his college days at Florida.
The University of Florida Athletics Hall of Fame inducted Taylor in 2010.
Taylor also forgave his former sports agent Tank Black in the summer of 2012.
Black lost approximately $3.6 million of Taylor’s NFL earnings nearly thirteen years earlier.
“I had to forgive him,” Taylor told Yahoo! Sports. “I was pissed for a while. I was pissed for a long time.”
Taylor, who is part of the Jaguars’ game-day radio broadcast team, served as a mentor to rookies during the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, IN in March 2018.
Fred Taylor and former Jaguars offensive lineman Tony Boselli became semi-finalists for entry into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in November 2020.
Both Taylor and Boselli were finalists the previous year.
Fred Taylor and Tony Boselli have both been named 2020 Pro Football Hall of Fame finalists. pic.twitter.com/0nmHbIMXXC
— Generation Jaguar (@generationjag) November 26, 2019
While Taylor hasn’t made it to Canton yet, he told NFL Network (via SI.com’s Demetrius Harvey) he feels he belongs in that elite group:
“Obviously, I think I belong. It’s not in my hands. I think the voters, after doing a deep dive, they’ll understand that I belong there, too.”
“I really believe I had a solid career, and hopefully the writers will understand that one day.”
Taylor currently hosts the “I Am Athlete Miami” show with fellow NFL stars Channing Crowder, Chad Johnson, and Brandon Marshall.