Nobody would’ve ever thought Jason Taylor would become one of the greatest defensive players in pro football history.
His high school football coach George Novak saw something in him that others didn’t.
Taylor eventually blossomed on the gridiron and became one of the first hybrid defensive end-linebacker players in the late 1990s.
Taylor racked up six Pro Bowl berths and three First-Team All-Pro selections as a member of the Miami Dolphins during his illustrious 15-year NFL career.
It wasn’t all glory, though – Taylor endured several serious injuries during his gridiron career. In fact, doctors almost amputated his leg several times.
Through it all, Taylor persevered and eventually became a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility in 2017.
Not bad for a Pittsburgh kid who never played organized football until his latter years in high school.
Jason Paul Taylor was born to his mother Georgia on September 1, 1974 in Pittsburgh, PA.
He has an older sister Tiffany, a younger sister Joy, and a younger brother Noah.
Taylor never met his biological father. His mother raised Taylor and his siblings by herself in a Section 8 housing in the Pittsburgh suburbs.
She worked two jobs to make ends meet. She’d leave their house before Jason woke up and return when he was already sleeping.
Jason Taylor considered his mother his teacher and role model. For her part, Georgia Taylor constantly reminded her son that he had two ways to rise above his circumstances: the military or the gridiron.
Football eventually prevailed for Jason Taylor.
“I have to admit, I’m not cut out for the military,” Taylor said in his Pro Football Hall of Fame induction speech in 2017. “But I got very lucky because football found me. Football rescued me.”
Taylor attended Woodland Hills High School in his hometown. He went through its homeschooling program from 10th to 12th grade.
Taylor worked after his homeschooling sessions to earn extra money. Little did he know his work ethic would change his life forever.
When Taylor was sixteen years old, Woodland Hills Wolverines head football coach George Novak spotted him working on a neighbor’s front yard.
Novak asked Taylor, who was just 150 pounds back then if he was interested in playing football.
Taylor was apprehensive – he felt his homeschooling background forbade him from trying out for the gridiron.
Really nice thing Jason Taylor said about George Novak — both of whom are western Pa football legends.
— Colin Dunlap (@colin_dunlap) August 6, 2017
Novak was adamant – he asked Taylor to come out for football practice a 6 p.m.
Novak asked Taylor to run routes and catch passes from the quarterback.
Taylor obliged. After a few passes, Novak told him he made the team, per The New Jersey Star-Ledger’s Zach Berman.
Just like that, Jason Taylor’s path to redemption was set.
Novak cleared Taylor’s football eligibility with the school board. With that out of the way, Taylor became a Jack of all trades for the Wolverines: he played wide receiver, tight end, cornerback, and safety.
Taylor eventually earned all-conference honors following his senior season.
George Novak called his friend, Akron Zips defensive coordinator Bob Junko, and put in a good word for Taylor.
Junko went to Pittsburgh and watched Taylor record a triple-double (double-figure outputs in points, rebounds, and assists) against Central Catholic.
Toward the end of Taylor’s high school years, Junko and Zips head football coach Gerry Faust visited his Pittsburgh residence.
Faust and Junko didn’t mind Taylor got off to a late start on the gridiron. They didn’t mind he was undersized, either. They trusted their gut and offered him a scholarship to attend the University of Akron.
Jason Taylor traveled west to Ohio and embarked on a successful college football career with the Akron Zips in the next phase of his gridiron journey.
College Days With The Akron Zips
Jason Taylor attended the University of Akron from 1993 to 1996.
During Taylor’s four-year stint with the Akron Zips football team, he was a four-year letterman and three-year starter.
He hit it off immediately with Zips teammate and roommate Bryan Coles, another Pittsburgh native. Coles became one of Jason Taylor’s closest friends.
Taylor earned team MVP honors as a junior in 1995. He earned First-Team All-MAC honors the following year.
Jason Taylor’s 21.0 career sacks are the most in Akron football program history. His 41.0 tackles for loss and 10.0 sacks in a season rank him second all-time.
The Zips weren’t a good football team during Taylor’s four-year tenure in Akron – they were a combined 12-32 (.273) from 1993 to 1996.
Nevertheless, Jason Taylor’s evolution into one of the greatest defensive players in pro football history was in full swing.
In fact, he’s the only Akron Zips player currently enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, per the team’s official athletics website.
Pro Football Career
The Miami Dolphins made Jason Taylor the 73rd overall selection of the 1997 NFL Draft. He signed a four-year, $1.3 million deal in the summer of 1997.
Dolphins head coach Jimmy Johnson envisioned the 6’6″, 244-lb. Taylor wreaking havoc at defensive end. Having the undersized Taylor play that position – which typically required a weight of at least 300 pounds – was preposterous to some teams.
Not Jimmy Johnson, though.
Johnson was one of the few head coaches who revolutionized hybrid players like Taylor who could play both linebacker and defensive end. The trend eventually caught on and gained traction as the years went by.
In 1997, the #Dolphins selected little-known Jason Taylor, DE, out of Akron. He went on to be a 6x Pro Bowler, 3x All-Pro and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2017. #NFLDraft pic.twitter.com/LEDra5RoNI
— NFL Draft Lounge (@NFLDraftLounge) April 25, 2020
Johnson’s confidence in Taylor meant so much to the latter that he asked his first NFL head coach to act as his presenter during his Pro Football Hall of Fame induction in 2017.
Johnson was a tough-as-nails coach who took no prisoners during his legendary 34-year coaching career. He almost made Jason Taylor quit football.
An exhausted Taylor called up his mother Georgia on the fifth day of training camp during his rookie year.
That early in Taylor’s NFL career, he wasn’t so sure if football was his calling anymore. He had no idea what he signed up for.
His mother told him could go back to Pittsburgh, get a job, or sign up for the military. Otherwise, he could remain in South Florida and keep his nose to the grindstone.
Jason Taylor wisely chose the latter option.
When Taylor’s NFL career began in 1997, he hired sports agent Gary Wichard to represent him. Wichard wasn’t just an agent, he also acted as Taylor’s advisor, mentor, friend, and father figure.
Taylor revealed in his Pro Football Hall of Fame induction speech in 2017 that he and Wichard communicated daily for the entirety of his NFL career.
That went on despite the 3,000-mile distance that separated them – Taylor played for the Miami Dolphins while Wichard resided in Southern California.
Sadly, Gary Wichard passed away due to diabetes and pancreatic cancer in March 2011.
Jason Taylor recorded his first career sack against Indianapolis Colts quarterback Jim Harbaugh in 1997. He went on to record 138.5 more in his illustrious 15-year NFL career.
The Miami Dolphins were a legitimate postseason contender when Taylor barged into the pro ranks. They averaged ten wins per year from 1997 to 2001. However, they never made it past the AFC Divisional Round.
Jason Taylor had an impressive 14.5 sacks, four fumble recoveries, an interception, and a defensive touchdown in the 2000 NFL season.
Consequently, he earned his first Pro Bowl nod and First-Team All-Pro selection that year. He then earned Second-Team All-Pro honors the following season.
Taylor married Katina Thomas, the sister of his Dolphins teammate Zach Thomas, in 2000. His stepfather didn’t approve of the union – he didn’t even allow some of their family members to attend the wedding.
Authorities charged Taylor’s stepfather with aggravated assault after he got into an argument involving a gun with his stepson.
Jason Taylor testified at his three-day criminal trial. A judge eventually cleared his stepfather of the charges.
Taylor continued playing at a high level on the gridiron. His 18.5 sacks led the National Football League in the 2002 season.
Taylor recorded two of those sacks against Oakland Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon on December 15, 2002. Taylor sacked Gannon on two consecutive plays and forced the latter to fumble each time in the first quarter alone.
Fortunately for the Raiders, they recovered Gannon’s two fumbles.
To nobody’s surprise, Taylor earned the first of his two career AFC Defensive Player of the Year awards, He also made it to the Pro Bowl and earned First-Team All-Pro honors for the second time in his career.
Unfortunately, the Dolphins began their downward spiral in 2002. Although they won nine games that year, they began a postseason drought that lasted six years – the remainder of Taylor’s tenure in South Florida.
Jason Taylor never tasted postseason football again in a Miami Dolphins uniform.
— JTFoundation (@JTFoundation99) February 21, 2022
He founded the Jason Taylor Foundation in 2004 to support the health care, education, and quality of life of children in the South Florida area.
Taylor officially became a member of the Akron Zips Ring of Honor that year.
Taylor navigated through turbulent waters in his personal life during his tenth year in the pro ranks.
His wife Katina filed for divorce in the summer of 2006.
Katina Thomas-Taylor requested custody of their three children but eventually withdrew the petition on two separate occasions. Jason and Katina didn’t finalize their divorce until 2015.
Katina Thomas-Taylor served as vice president of the Jason Taylor Foundation during the time she initially filed for divorce until it was finalized.
Jason Taylor assured The Associated Press (via ESPN) that his divorce didn’t affect the Dolphins’ locker room during the 2006 NFL season.
In fact, the 2006 NFL campaign was one of Jason Taylor’s best. He had 13.5 sacks, nine forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, and two pick-sixes – an extraordinary accomplishment for a defensive lineman.
Remarkably, Taylor played through personal issues and various injuries that year – he had a broken right forearm, a back injury, torn plantar fascias, several dislocated fingers, a medial collateral ligament sprain, and a broken collarbone.
According to NPR.org, Taylor also had compartment syndrome in 2006. It’s a condition where internal bleeding causes pressure to increase in a person’s arms or legs.
Taylor had compartment syndrome in his left leg. It reached a point where the nerve damage measured nine inches. The condition also resulted in a staph infection.
Taylor endured compartment syndrome for ten months in 2006. It was so bad his doctors even recommended amputating his left leg. Fortunately, it didn’t materialize.
That article on Jason Taylor is insane wow he played through alot. Man that’s crazy with a catheter in his armpit going to heart.
— FootballNerd (@FTBNerd) January 13, 2013
Jason Taylor even wore a catheter when he took the field for the 2006 NFL season. His high threshold for pain helped him not only overcome his injuries, but also record one of his best statistical seasons.
“I’ve always been a guy that has a high pain threshold and also refused to accept not trying or losing,” Taylor told NPR.org’s Audie Cornish in August 2014. “I wasn’t going to let a catheter hinder me if at all I can get out there and do it.”
The University of Akron’s Sports Hall of Fame inducted Taylor during his eleventh pro season in 2007. He also won the Walter Payton NFL Man of The Year Award.
The Jacksonville Jaguars expressed interest in acquiring Taylor via trade following the 2007 NFL season. However, that never panned out.
Instead, new Dolphins president and general manager Bill Parcells was livid over Taylor’s commitment to the top-ranking show “Dancing With The Stars” during the offseason.
Rather than attend Miami’s voluntary offseason workouts, Taylor decided to focus on “Dancing With The Stars.”
When Taylor went into a room where Parcells was watching game tape, the latter ignored him. For Taylor’s part, he was incensed at Parcell’s gesture.
Jason Taylor eventually wanted to leave Miami.
The Dolphins traded Taylor to the then-Washington Redskins (now known as the Washington Commanders) for a 2008 second-round pick and a 2009 sixth-round selection on July 20, 2008.
Taylor continued playing hurt during the 2008 NFL campaign. After a bruising game in Washington, Taylor experienced throbbing pain in his calf when he was in bed at 2 a.m.
The pain subsided significantly when he either walked or stood up. Taylor leaned against a wall by a staircase and fell asleep standing up.
When the pain recurred, Taylor called up his trainer and asked if he could take the pain killer Vicodin. The trainer refused because it could kickstart an addiction to pain killers.
— Yahoo Sports (@YahooSports) August 6, 2017
Taylor’s blood pressure levels reached alarming levels at the local hospital. He reached out to renowned orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews, who recommended amputating Taylor’s leg.
Jason Taylor thought Dr. Andrews was joking. It turned out the latter was serious.
Taylor had another serious episode of compartment syndrome. Doctors spared his leg yet again. Had his trainer rushed him to the hospital two hours later, he wouldn’t have been as fortunate.
Despite Jason Taylor’s high threshold for pain, there were times when the pain got the better of him.
For instance, physicians had to stuff his mouth with a towel to muffle his screams when they injected the bottom of his feet with medication. Taylor also collapsed in a parking lot once after an epidural injection locked up his back.
Taylor had a short stint in the nation’s capital. The Redskins released him in March 2009 after he reportedly skipped offseason workouts because he wanted to remain closer to his family in Miami.
He had 3.5 sacks and earned $8 million in the 2008 NFL season. Some eight years later, Taylor even thanked Washington team owner Daniel Snyder in his Pro Football Hall of Fame induction speech.
“Thank you for the opportunity to come to Washington,” Taylor said (via USA TODAY Sports). “Stole a lot of money from you, but I appreciate it. Hey, I’m just being honest, all right?”
The Redskins won eight games and missed the postseason for the thirteenth time in the past seventeen years with Taylor on board.
Taylor returned to where it all began: South Florida.
The thirty-four-year-old hybrid defensive end and linebacker signed a one-year, $1.5 million deal with the Miami Dolphins in the spring of 2009.
In stark contrast, the Redskins dangled a one-year, $8.5 million contract extension to Taylor. He turned it down because he wanted to remain closer to his wife and three children in Miami.
Taylor had 7.0 sacks for the 7-9 Dolphins, who missed the postseason for the seventh time in the past eight years.
After playing out his one-year deal with Miami, Taylor signed a two-year deal worth up to $13 million with the New York in the spring of 2010.
Taylor had 5.0 sacks for the 11-5 Jets, who lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Championship Game, 24-19.
The Jets released Taylor on February 28, 2011. He signed with the Dolphins for a third and final time five months later.
Taylor had 7.0 sacks in his final NFL season – two came at the expense of controversial Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick.
Taylor recorded his final career sack against legendary New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in the 2011 NFL season.
Taylor earned high praise from Brady, a seven-time Super Bowl winner with the Patriots and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“Regardless of the situation, Jason came after me with the same reckless abandon on each and every step, getting to his target often,” Brady wrote in a blog via Yahoo! Sports’ Jay Busbee in 2017. “It was his fierce tenacity that made him one of the league’s most dominant defenders for fifteen seasons.”
Miami won just six games in the 2011 NFL campaign and failed to contend for the postseason yet again.
Jason Taylor announced his retirement from the National Football League on December 28, 2011.
He concluded his sterling 15-year NFL career with 523 solo tackles, 47 forced fumbles, 29 fumble recoveries, eight interceptions, and three defensive touchdowns.
Taylor’s six fumble returns for touchdowns are the most in league history. He’s currently seventh in NFL history with 139.5 career sacks.
Jason Taylor also has three career safeties – one short of the league record that Doug English, Jared Allen, and Ted Hendricks share.
Taylor’s 246 fumble return yards rank him fourth in NFL history behind DeAngelo Hall (328), Osi Umenyiora (310), and Aeneas Williams (268).
Jason Taylor earned approximately $40 million in his 15-year NFL career.
Jason Taylor and his wife Monica have a son. They currently reside in the Fort Lauderdale, FL area.
Taylor and his ex-wife Katina, the sister of his Miami Dolphins teammate Zach Thomas, have two sons Isaiah and Mason and a daughter Zoe.
It wasn’t until 2015 when Jason and Katina finalized their divorce in Key West, FL.
Jason Taylor promised his ex-wife he’d pay her $8.67 million as an alimony payment. Katina Thomas-Taylor sued him in 2017 because she claimed he fell short on his promise by $3.4 million.
Taylor joined ESPN as a pro football analyst on June 6, 2012.
He and his good friend Zach Thomas became members of the Miami Dolphins Honor Roll four months later.
Taylor admitted he was still feeling the ill effects of the gridiron three years after he played his final down in the NFL.
“There’s things that nag a little bit,” Taylor told NPR.org in 2014. “You know, joints don’t bend as much as they used to.”
The Pro Football Hall of Fame inducted Jason Taylor in the summer of 2017.
Taylor joined the Miami Dolphins broadcast team three years later.
Taylor’s sons have followed in his footsteps on the gridiron. His older son Isaiah, a defensive back, committed to the Arizona Wildcats in January 2021.
His younger brother Mason, a tight end, committed to the LSU Tigers almost seven months later.
According to The Athletic’s Mario Navarro, Taylor joined Mario Cristobal’s Miami Hurricanes coaching staff on March 4, 2022.
Taylor’s addition fortifies a Hurricanes coaching lineup that also includes his fellow Hall of Famer Ed Reed, who currently serves as the team’s chief of staff.