From 1981-1993, Lawrence Taylor was the epitome of New York Giants football. “LT” was tough, fast, hit like a truck, and had a bit of a wild streak.
Taylor was already a record breaker in college at North Carolina, but his talent exploded in the NFL.
As an outside linebacker, Taylor re-wrote the book on his position.
His speed and nose for the football were otherworldly.
Not only did he come to define what future linebackers aspired to, he changed how teams draft offensive tackles.
Taylor was so quick off the ball that opponents had to draft linemen nimble enough to challenge him.
• 10x Pro-Bowler
• 10x First-Team All-Pro
• 3x NFL DPOY
• 2x Super Bowl Champion
• NFL MVP
• NFL Top 100 All-Time Team
• Hall of Famer
Happy Birthday, Lawrence Taylor! 🐐 pic.twitter.com/POl0ICUE0H
— Sports = Life (@SportzzTweetzz) February 4, 2020
Every week, offensive coordinators had to game plan specifically for Taylor and hope everything else came together.
Most of the time, those plans did not pan out.
During most of his career, Taylor had a superior coaching staff that could draft well and put together an effective game plan.
Because of this, he would eventually win two championships.
Although he was a demon on the field, Taylor also struggled with personal demons away from the game that nearly ended his career
This is the story of the life and career of Lawrence Taylor.
Growing up in Virginia
Lawrence Julius Taylor was born on February 4, 1959 in Williamsburg, Virginia.
Taylor was one of three sons born to his parents, Iris and Clarence.
Growing up, he had a temperament that matched his future profession.
Taylor, who was called “Lonnie” by his family, could be a pain in the rear as a child.
“…[h]e was a challenging child,” said his mother. ” 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.”
The future NFL Hall of Famer didn’t start playing the sport until high school.
Up until he was 15, Taylor played baseball, primarily as a catcher.
As he was walking down the hallway one day, Lafayette High School football coach Mel Jones spotted Taylor.
Jones approached Taylor “…out in the hallway because he was big.”
The encounter with Jones proved fortuitous and Taylor began playing his first year of organized football as a junior.
Although he was a fairly good football player in high school, he was still raw.
That translated into few college opportunities after his prep career ended.
However, he was able to garner enough interest to make his way to the University of North Carolina.
Taylor Makes a Name for Himself at UNC
Because of his late start in football, Taylor muddled through his first two years at Chapel Hill.
During those early years, he was used as a defensive linemen.
However, Taylor started to come into his own and became someone the Tar Heels staff kept an eye on.
“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 years later. “He was reckless, just reckless.”
That recklessness led to a position change in 1979 when he was moved to linebacker.
Taylor took to the position quickly and, by his final college season, he had earned a reputation.
In 1980, Taylor set a program record in sacks with 16.
His play that year led to him being named First-team All-American, ACC Player of the Year, and to the 50 Greatest ACC Players Ever team.
— Seb (@CJ28MTL) May 2, 2020
Not only was Taylor notorious on the field, but he was becoming well known away from the gridiron as well.
“We’d always joke to him about how he wasn’t getting respect at this bar downtown,” said his roommate, Steve Streater. “So one night Lawrence walked into the bar and busted up everything — chairs, glasses, everything. That’s what he thought it took to gain respect.”
During his four years in college, Taylor had 21 sacks, 33 tackles for loss, and two interceptions.
He was responsible for helping the program win the ACC Championship in 1980 (the last time the program has done so) and big wins over Michigan and Texas in bowl games.
Predicting Taylor’s future as a pro, then Georgia Tech coach Bill Curry told the media he was a believer in Taylor’s ability to perform well in the NFL.
“He has all-pro potential. He destroyed our offense.”
Taylor Makes Waves Even Before he Plays a Down
Before the 1981 NFL Draft, a poll was taken of the league’s 28 general managers.
Asked who they would draft if they had the first pick that year, 26 GMs said they would draft Taylor.
One of the teams who did not choose Taylor was New Orleans, who actually owned the top spot.
With that pick, the Saints selected Heisman Trophy winner George Rogers from South Carolina.
That left the Giants, at pick number two, on the clock.
Before the draft, New York general manager George Young was effusive in his praise regarding Taylor.
“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.”
To the delight of Giants fans, Young pulled the trigger and grabbed Taylor with the pick.
Addressing the media after the selection, coach Ray Perkins shared why they chose Taylor.
“He was the cleanest player in the draft. By that I mean there was no rap on him,” said Perkins. “Great potential as a linebacker, a fine young man, free of injuries.”
Of course, had Perkins known what Taylor was doing on draft day, he might have reconsidered his statement.
In 1981, the draft experience as we know it today did not exist.
Back then, there was no “green room” and draftees that had a first-round designation did not travel to New York and wait for their name to be called.
For the most part, draftees had to wait for a phone call from their agent or from their new team to find out where, when, and if they were selected.
During the first day of the draft that year, for instance, Taylor was at home in Virginia.
In an interview from 2010, Taylor revealed that, as he waited for his phone call, he whiled away the time by downing a few beers.
“I don’t remember too much, I had 41 Coors Lights that day,” Taylor told SI.com. “Definitely don’t remember what happened.”
It is worth pondering how Taylor made his way to training camp, let alone how he survived to tell the tale.
With Taylor now on board, there was the matter of his rookie contract, which had already raised concerns with Giants management.
Leading up to the draft, Taylor was clear that he would not sign for anything less than $250,000 per year.
At the time, that amount was nowhere near what rookies typically received.
Once he was drafted by New York, several of Taylor’s new teammates were upset with his contract demands and threatened to leave the team if he was given his asking price.
Eventually, the terms of the contract were settled and Taylor received just north of $200,000 per year for three years.
”I signed my contract Tuesday,” Taylor said in 1981, ”and I’m happy. Mike (Trope, his agent) is happy. Mr. Young is happy. We might have talked more and I might have got more, but it’s a fair contract. In the summer of 1978, I set stone slabs for building construction and earned $1,000 or $1,100. This is more.”
“Superman” Arrives in 1981
As Taylor settled in during training camp, his fellow Giants quickly realized why he was a highly sought after draft pick.
Even though New York was in practice mode and preparing for the new season, Taylor played like a wild man.
His talent was shocking and teammates soon began calling him “Superman.”
They also suggested that his locker should be converted to a phone booth.
Best Giant LB of all times: (Superman Lawrence Taylor) pic.twitter.com/LEbiLB1U
— ícarus (@icarodeartemisa) September 16, 2012
Phil Simms, the Giants quarterback, was happy when the regular season began, if only to allow Taylor to go after a different quarterback.
“…on the pass rush, he’s an animal,” Simms said at the time. “He’s either going to run around you or over you. With his quickness, he’s full speed after two steps.”
During the ‘81 regular season, Taylor’s play lived up to the publicity that came from his training camp performance.
Defensive coordinator Bill Parcells realized he had his work cut out for him with Taylor during a game against the St. Louis Cardinals.
On a play where Taylor was supposed to drop into coverage, he instead rushed the quarterback and picked up a sack.
Told later by Parcells that what he did on that play was not correct, Taylor offered a suggestion.
“Well, we better put it in on Monday, because that play’s a dandy.”
Throughout his time in New York, Parcells and Taylor would frequently butt heads.
Parcells was notoriously hard on his players to get them to play better.
Taylor did not like this approach and let his coach know it.
“I’ve had enough. You either cut me or trade me but get the f*** off my back,” said Taylor to Parcells early in his career.
Despite the initial animosity, Taylor came to respect the man who would eventually become his head coach.
The crusty Parcells also developed an affinity for his loose cannon, as he shared with some of his veteran players.
“I like that LT. That motherf*****’s got a mean streak.”
During the ‘81 season, LT had 9.5 sacks and was named the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year and the Defensive Player of the Year.
The Giants improved their win total from the previous season by five games and went to the playoffs at 9-7.
In their first-round matchup against San Francisco, the 49ers came up with a plan to stop Taylor, or at least to slow him down.
Head coach Bill Walsh assigned guard John Ayers to block LT.
Ayers was the Niners best blocker and the only one of their linemen that could keep up with Taylor.
San Francisco won the game 38-24, but Taylor still had a sack and three tackles.
Taylor’s play on the field in 1981 was revelatory, but his antics away from the game made New York management fearful.
During the season, Taylor was nearly killed when his speeding car was involved in a crash.
That prompted Young, the team’s GM, to comment that he doubted LT would live past 30.
He then insured Taylor’s life for a cool $2 million.
The 1982 NFL season was shortened to nine games due to the players strike.
New York took a step back and finished the abbreviated year 4-5.
However, Taylor continued to shine on the field.
During the Thanksgiving Day game in Detroit, both teams were deadlocked 6-6.
After driving deep in Giants territory, Lions quarterback Gary Danielson dropped back and threw a pass to his left.
Taylor stepped in front of the pass and sprinted 97 yards for the go-ahead touchdown.
The play was indicative of Taylor’s skill set.
Linebackers were not expected to be able to intercept a pass like a defensive back and outrun everyone nearly the length of the field.
Despite the Giants losing record, Taylor was again named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
After the season ended, Giants head coach Ray Perkins left to become the head coach at The University of Alabama.
Parcells took over in 1983 and New York fared worse than they did in ‘82, finishing 3-12.
Fans and the media called for Parcells firing, but Young and the front office ignored the criticism.
Taylor was moved for part of the season to middle linebacker due to an injury to future Hall of Famer Harry Carson.
The move to the middle prevented Taylor from getting to the quarterback as much as he had before.
However, he was still able to inflict enough damage from both spots.
After the season, LT became the first player to receive First-team All-Pro for both positions in the same season.
During the ‘83 season, Taylor became frustrated by the constant losing and lashed out.
He was frequently late to team meetings and did not participate in conditioning drills during practice.
After the season, he was involved in a bidding war for his services by the Giants and the United States Football League’s New Jersey Generals.
The Generals owner was future president Donald Trump.
Trump gave Taylor an interest-free $1 million, 25-year loan with the provision that he would join the Generals in 1988.
— GMEN HQ (@GMENHQ) June 17, 2016
Taylor agreed to the loan but almost immediately regretted it.
With the help of his agent and the Giants, Taylor backed out of the deal.
However, there were certain terms to the agreement in leaving his Generals contract.
After Taylor received a new six-year, $6.55 million deal from the Giants, he was required to repay Trump.
Part of his new contract was a $1 million interest-free loan that Taylor was required to give to Trump.
Then, the Giants ended up paying the future world leader $750,000 over the next five years.
With the Trump fiasco behind them, New York, Parcells, and Taylor had a much improved 1984 season.
The team rebounded to finish 9-7, win a first-round playoff game 16-13 against the Rams, and then come up short in the Divisional game versus the Niners 21-10.
Taylor had the first of seven straight seasons of double-digit sack totals.
During a game early in the ‘84 season, LT had four sacks on his way to 11.5 for the year.
His contribution to the Giants brought him another First-team All-Pro selection.
Taylor Ends Theismann’s Career
In 1985, the Giants finished 10-6 and finally got past San Francisco in the playoffs.
After beating the Niners 17-3 in the first round, they fell to the Chicago Bears, 21-0.
The Bears lost only one game that season on the way to the world title.
Taylor had another monster year with 13 sacks and another All-Pro nod.
By this point in his career, Taylor was in the groove.
Lawrence Taylor did so much cocaine in 1985 that he developed the power to shoot laser beams out of his fingers. pic.twitter.com/wGsThiG8iH
— Super 70s Sports (@Super70sSports) November 21, 2019
He showed up in big moments and wasn’t afraid to make game-turning plays.
“There comes a time in a game when you know a key play is coming up,” Taylor said. “You can just feel it in the air. There are guys who shun those moments. It’s like in basketball. There are guys who want to shoot that last shot, and others who want to pass off. I want that last shot.”
As their matchup against division rival Washington approached on November 18, 1985, Parcells started to motivate Taylor.
Parcells had begun a habit where, every time the team was scheduled to play the Redskins, he would tell Taylor that the Washington players didn’t think he could play well against them.
As many times as Parcells used the trick, Taylor bought into it every time.
During the game, Taylor was performing lights out on the Monday Night Football stage.
On a routine play in the second quarter with the game tied at seven, the Redskins ran a flea-flicker.
Both Taylor and Carson did not bite on the play and closed on Theismann.
They arrived at the same time and Taylor landed on the quarterback’s lower right leg.
As Carson and fellow linebacker Gary Reasons came crashing down on Theismann, Taylor was still wrapped around Theismann’s leg.
In what came to be known as the NFL’s “Most Shocking Moment in History” by an ESPN poll, Theismann’s tibia and fibula snapped.
Today in 1985, Lawrence Taylor grinds Joe Theismann's fibula and tibia into dust and then just snorts them right there for a cheap high. pic.twitter.com/yrOu0aANGJ
— Super 70s Sports (@Super70sSports) November 18, 2016
“The pain was unbelievable, it snapped like a breadstick,” said Theismann during an interview. “It sounded like two muzzled gunshots off my left shoulder. Pow, pow! … It was at that point, I also found out what a magnificent machine the human body is. Almost immediately, from the knee down, all the feeling was gone in my right leg. The endorphins had kicked in, and I was not in pain.”
When he heard the sound and saw Theismann’s leg, Taylor immediately jumped up and waved frantically toward the Redskins bench for medical personnel.
Because of the severity of the injury, Theismann never played again and Taylor has not been able to watch the play, nor does he ever plan to.
“It’s not a moment I want to remember,” he said, “or see again.”
To his credit, Theismann has never blamed Taylor for ending his career, despite Taylor’s numerous apologies.
The quarterback has maintained that Taylor was simply doing his job.
The Giants Break Through in ‘86
Just after the ‘85 season ended, Taylor felt that his fast-paced lifestyle was catching up to him and checked himself into Methodist Hospital in Houston for rehab.
After one group session, he decided it wasn’t for him.
Citing his belief that all the other addicts were “crazy,” Taylor spent the remainder of the offseason golfing.
After two straight years of close calls in 1984 and 1985, the Giants finally broke through in 1986.
Everything came together as New York finished the season 14-2 and destroyed the 49ers and Redskins in the playoffs by a combined score of 66-3.
Taylor led the league that year in sacks with 20.5 which led to him being voted the NFL’s MVP.
That marked the only time in history where a defensive player was unanimously voted Most Valuable Player.
Taylor was also named the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year for the third time.
In Super Bowl XXI, the Giants overcame a slow start against John Elway and the Broncos to win 39-20.
Lawrence Taylor, George Martin, Erik Howard and Leonard Marshall gang sack John Elway during Super Bowl XXI: pic.twitter.com/yR4GSBpn
— SI Vault (@si_vault) November 28, 2011
Taylor had a key goal line stop during the game where he tackled Elway just short of the goal line.
After the game, while his teammates celebrated, Taylor was melancholy.
“When the Super Bowl was over … Everyone was so excited, but by then I felt deflated. I’d won every award, had my best season, finally won the Super Bowl. I was on top of the world right? So what could be next? Nothing. The thrill is the chase to get to the top. Every day the excitement builds and builds and builds, and then when you’re finally there and the game is over … And then, nothing,” said Taylor years later.
Another players strike shortened the 1987 season to 15 games and the Giants, fresh off their Super Bowl win, stumbled to 6-9.
Taylor angered many of his teammates when he decided to cross the picket line to play.
“The Giants are losing. And I’m losing $60,000 a week,” he said at the time.
Even in a shortened season, Taylor still led the team in sacks with 12 in 12 games.
In 1988, Taylor’s lifestyle caught up to him again.
After taking a league-mandated drug test, Taylor was found positive for cocaine.
The NFL promptly suspended him for 30 days since it was the second violation of the league’s substance-abuse policy.
The first positive test had come during the ‘87 season and been kept from the public.
While serving his suspension, Taylor again checked himself into rehab.
When he returned, the Giants were sitting at 2-2.
Over the next 12 games, Taylor racked up 15.5 sacks.
Three of those sacks came in a crucial game against the Saints late in the season.
While nursing a detached pectoral muscle and torn shoulder ligaments, Taylor contributed three sacks, seven tackles, and two forced fumbles.
Lawrence Taylor’s greatest performance was against the Saints in Week 13 of the 1988 season: “I think it’s his signature game.” – Bill Parcells#AFootballLife: @LT_56 #GiantsPride pic.twitter.com/5UOHsqs9hK
— NFL Network (@nflnetwork) September 22, 2018
During the game, sideline cameras found him writhing in pain as the Giants medical staff tended to him.
To keep his shoulder in place, Taylor wore a shoulder harness.
Because of his play, New York eked out a 13-12 victory.
However, the Giants missed the playoffs that year with a 10-6 record.
1989 saw LT bring down opposing quarterbacks 15 times.
During the year, he was forced to miss significant game time due to a fractured tibia sustained during Week 12.
The Giants improved to 12-4 and faced the Rams in the Divisional playoffs.
In a hard fought game that was eventually settled in overtime, Los Angeles ended New York’s season 19-13.
Despite his unpredictable demeanor, Taylor had a reputation as a tough guy who didn’t let pain slow him down.
At various times during his career, he willed himself to play despite a debilitating injury.
When asked how he was able to play when seriously hurt, Taylor said the trick was to make his body believe that it wasn’t hurt.
Most of the time, his “trick” worked.
The Giants and Taylor Return to the Super Bowl
Before the ‘90 season began, Taylor held out of training camp to push for a larger contract.
Hoping for $2 million per year, he eventually settled on a three year deal for $5 million.
That made him the highest-paid defensive player in the NFL.
Taylor made his tenth consecutive Pro Bowl after finishing the season with 10.5 sacks.
The 1990 season was a dominating one for the Giants.
After a 10-0 start, the team finished the year 13-3.
In the first round of the playoffs, New York hammered the Bears 31-3.
Next up was a tough contest against San Francisco.
The Niners went 14-2 that year and were every bit the team the Giants were.
On the line was a Super Bowl “three-peat” for San Francisco.
The game went back and forth with New York only able to muster field goals.
San Francisco held a 13-12 lead with just minutes remaining.
Then, Giants defensive tackle Leonard Marshall crushed quarterback Joe Montana on a blind side hit.
Montana was injured on the play and did not return.
A short time later, usually dependable running back Roger Craig fumbled the football and Taylor fell on it.
The Giants drove down the field and kicked the game-winning field goal.
Super Bowl XXV was supposed to be a blowout.
The Buffalo Bills were a juggernaut and had a 13-3 record.
The Giants were thought to be too tired and weak from their slugfest with the Niners.
However, Parcells and defensive coordinator Bill Belichick put together one of the best coaching plans in Super Bowl history.
As community outreach, every training camp Lawrence Taylor would befriend a local nerd and let him hang out for a while with the team after practice – hang on, being told that’s just Belichick. pic.twitter.com/zpjwPVE7lP
— Super 70s Sports (@Super70sSports) December 24, 2019
A back-and-forth game came down to the final seconds and the Bills trailing 20-19.
Buffalo got to within field goal range and kicker Scott Norwood trotted out to attempt a 47-yard game-winner.
“The kick went up, and I was on the ground face-first,” recalled Taylor in 2012. “ I didn’t look up. Instead, I looked at Erik Howard. He was on his butt looking back, watching the kick. I didn’t want to see it. It was wide right.”
NFL royalty in the house, as Lawrence Taylor is on hand for the Super Bowl XXV anniversary celebration. pic.twitter.com/UanO8Gmqie
— Dan Graziano (@DanGrazianoESPN) September 20, 2015
Taylor and the Giants had their second world title in five years.
However, the good times were soon to end.
1991 & 1992
Following the Super Bowl, Parcells surprised the football universe when he decided to retire (he would return in 1993 to coach the Patriots).
With Ray Handley leading the team, New York took a step back, ending the year 8-8.
Taylor missed two games to injury and had only seven sacks for the year.
The ‘91 season was the first of his career where he did not make it to the Pro Bowl.
In 1992, Taylor had five sacks after the first nine games of the season.
During the Giants Week 10 game against Green Bay, Taylor ruptured his achilles tendon.
The injury forced him to miss the rest of the season and the team suffered, posting a 6-10 record.
Before ‘92, Taylor had only missed four games total to injury.
Missing seven straight games caused him to look hard at his mortality as a player.
Taylor decided to return for the 1993 season for two reasons.
First, he did not want to end his career injured.
Second, a new coach was taking over the team.
After two unproductive years, Handley was shown the door.
In stepped former Broncos coach Dan Reeves.
Reeves had led a John Elway Broncos team to three Super Bowl appearances in the 80s, including one against the Giants.
With both Taylor and Simms returning from injury, New York improved from the year before and finished 11-5.
Taylor teamed with rookie Michael Strahan to help the Giants lead the NFL in fewest points allowed.
In the first round of the playoffs, New York dispatched Minnesota 17-10.
The following week, the team traveled to San Francisco to face their nemesis.
Unfortunately, father time caught up with the Giants and they were eliminated by the Niners 44-3.
After the game, Taylor announced what many had been expecting.
“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 the 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.”
— Chris Horwedel (@ChrisHorwedel) January 15, 2016
LT retired with 1,089 total tackles, 132.5 sacks (official NFL tally), nine interceptions, two touchdowns from INTs, 33 forced fumbles, and 11 fumble recoveries.
He was a ten-time Pro Bowler, eight-time First-team All-Pro, NFL Most Valuable Player, two-time Super Bowl winner, three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year, and named to the NFL’s 1980s All-Decade Team, NFL’s 75th Anniversary Team, and NFL’s 100th Anniversary Team.
Substance Abuse Trouble
For a few years after retiring, Taylor was involved in television work which included an analyst assignment on the now defunct TNT Sunday Night Football.
He was also one of the main characters in the 1999 movie Any Given Sunday, playing a crazed, veteran linebacker on his last legs.
His character also struggled with substance abuse problems.
As it turns out, this was a fairly accurate portrayal of the real LT.
Throughout his career, Taylor found himself on the wrong side of the law.
He was once asked what he could do that no other outside linebacker could do and his response was telling.
“Drink,” Taylor said. “I live my life in the fast lane and I always have.”
Alcohol and drugs nearly cut short his time in the NFL, let alone his life.
On countless occasions, Taylor would show up to practice hung over or trying to come down from a drug high.
When he showed up for a team meeting in 1989, LT was wearing handcuffs.
He explained the reason for his appearance to Parcells and his teammates.
Apparently, he had been out the night before with numerous women.
The “ladies were trying out some new equipment”, but “just didn’t happen to have the key,” he would recall.
At one time in his career, Taylor’s first wife picked him up at a crack house.
His substance abuse became such a problem that the league subjected him to frequent drug tests.
However, Taylor usually beat the tests by using someone else’s urine.
The testing did catch up to him twice, however, once in 1987 and the second in 1988 when he was suspended for 30 days.
Knowing that a third test would end his career according to league rules, Taylor “abstained” until his retirement.
As his retirement loomed, Taylor made the decision to return to drugs.
“I didn’t know what I wanted to do after football,” Taylor recalled in 2012. “For the most part, my future was up in the air. I did have one firm commitment, though. I reminded myself, I’m going to start doing recreational drugs again. I’d been tested by the NFL for so long, and I remember thinking, ‘Hey, no more pissin in the bottle.’ I must have led the daggone league in pissin in a bottle. And now there was nothing to keep me from going back to cocaine.”
As the years rolled by, Taylor immersed himself in cocaine and alcohol.
In 1995, he went through drug rehab twice, but did not change his ways.
In subsequent years, Taylor was arrested twice while trying to buy cocaine.
His association with drug dealers led to his house becoming a hovel of disrepute.
“I had gotten really bad. I mean my place was almost like a crack house,” Taylor would later explain.
Hall of Fame
For a while, Taylor cleaned up his life and broke free from drugs and liquor.
In 1999, the Pro Football Hall of Fame came calling.
As he was being considered, many people believed that his reckless off-the-field behavior would prevent his enshrinement.
However, his career stats were too overwhelming to pass up and Taylor was voted in on his first ballot.
At the induction ceremony, LT thanked his ex-wife, kids and parents by saying, “Thank you for putting up with me for all those years.”
On this day in 1999, Lawrence Taylor and Eric Dickerson, among others, were elected into the Football Hall of Fame. pic.twitter.com/oq9gyz9cAZ
— Sports Anniversaries (@SportsAnnys) August 7, 2015
By then, it was common knowledge that Taylor’s athleticism changed the positions of linebacker and offensive linemen, especially tackles.
Because of Taylor, coaches such as Bill Walsh and Joe Gibbs specifically drafted linemen that were quick-footed and not as heavy.
Before Taylor, linemen were primarily brutish heavyweights who simply obstructed their defensive counterparts with their girth.
With Taylor’s emergence, linemen had to adapt to meet the changing face of defensive players.
“Lawrence Taylor, defensively, has had as big an impact as any player I’ve ever seen,” former Raiders coach John Madden said. “He changed the way defense is played, the way pass-rushing is played, the way linebackers play and the way offenses block linebackers.”
In his best selling book The Blind Side, author Michael Lewis explained that the evolution of the modern-day offensive tackle began with Taylor.
His hit on Joe Theismann said to have led to the ‘Blind Side’ movement of placing high value on left tackles. Featured in Bill Belichick’s early success as a defensive coordinator. Just how much impact did Lawrence Taylor have on today’s NFL landscape? @LT_56 @Giants #Giants pic.twitter.com/OXwSN7Jcb9
— SportingHistory (@SportingHistor1) October 12, 2018
Specifically, his hit on Theismann showed coaches that they had to account for bigger and faster defensive players.
Michael Oher, The Blind Side’s protagonist, was drafted as an offensive tackle mainly because of his nimble feet and ability to counter quick defensive ends and linebackers.
Eventually, linemen went from 350+ pounds of flabby beef to just over 300 pounds of fast twitch muscle fiber.
Continued Legal Troubles
By 2009, Taylor was back to his wayward lifestyle.
First, there was a 2009 arrest in Florida after Taylor fled the scene of an accident.
Then, in 2010, he was arrested in New York for having sex with a 16-year-old girl in a hotel room.
In 2016, Taylor’s wife was arrested for domestic violence when she hit him in the head with an unknown object during an argument.
The following year, LT was charged with driving under the influence in Florida when he crashed his vehicle into a police car.
Breathalyzer tests taken after the incident showed Taylor’s blood alcohol level between .082-.084.
This was above the state’s legal limit of .080.
Now in his early sixties, Taylor has made more headlines for his public displays of lewd behavior than for his playing career.
The sad tale of one of the NFL’s larger-than-life players continues.