Lawrence Julius Taylor (born February 4, 1959, in Williamsburg, Virginia), nicknamed LT, is a retired Hall of Fame American football player who played his entire career as a linebacker for the NFL's New York Giants. He is considered by some to be the greatest defensive player in NFL history. His explosive speed and power helped permanently change the way that pro football approaches offensive-line play.
Taylor attended University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and wore #98. Taylor set numerous defensive records there, some of which have since been broken (most notably by Julius Peppers and Marcus Jones). UNC would later retire Taylor's jersey.
Career with the New York Giants
In 1981, Taylor was drafted by the NFL's New York Giants as the # 2 pick overall. Taylor was named 1981's NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and NFL Defensive Player of the Year by the Associated Press, the second award being a tremendous honor for a rookie. Taylor's impact was immediate and he was a big factor in the improvement of the Giants defense, which went from allowing 425 points 1980 to 257 in 1981. Taylor finished his rookie season with 9.5 sacks. He produced double-digit sacks seasons consecutively from 1984 through 1990, with his career high of 20 1/2 sacks coming in 1986.
Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, Taylor was a dominating force at outside linebacker, and is widely acknowledged as one of the most feared players to ever step onto the football field. He was a key player in the Giants' defense, nicknamed "The Big Blue Wrecking Crew", that led New York to Super Bowl XXI and XXV victories. During that time Taylor and fellow linebackers including Carl Banks and hall of famer Harry Carson gave the Giants linebacking corps a reputation as one of the best in the NFL.
Taylor won many individual awards. In 1986 he became one of just four defensive players to win the NFL Most Valuable Player award. He won the NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award 3 times (1981, 1982, 1986) and was selected to play in 10 Pro Bowls.
By the time Taylor retired in 1993, he had amassed 1,088 tackles, 132.5 sacks (not counting the 9.5 sacks he recorded as a rookie because sacks did not become an official statistic until 1982), 9 interceptions, 134 return yards, 2 touchdowns, 33 forced fumbles, 11 fumble recoveries, and 34 fumble return yards.
Impact on the NFL
Taylor has been credited as one of the catalysts for changing many of the blocking schemes in pro football. Washington Redskins coach Joe Gibbs developed the two tight end offense to prevent Taylor from blitzing into the backfield unhindered. His skills at outside linebacker forced other coaches to retool their entire offensive schemes to manage his impact. Indeed, in the late 70's and early 80's, a blitzing linebacker was almost always picked up by a running back. However, these players were usually no match for Taylor. Accordingly, in the Giant/49ers playoff game in January of 1982, 49ers coach Bill Walsh took the unprecedented step of having one of his offensive linemen, a guard, responsible for blocking Taylor. Taylor was neutralized in this game as the 49ers defeated the Giants. This move, however, left a hole in the offensive protection that a middle linebacker could exploit. Later, Walsh and other coaches began using offensive left tackles to block Taylor. Although Taylor made adjustments to his game to remain dominant, it soon became common in the NFL for offensive linemen to pick up blitzing linebackers, such as Taylor.
In 1994 the NFL named Taylor to its official 75th Anniversary All-Time Team and in 1999 Taylor was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Drugs, extreme measures and injuries
Taylor often played with pain, taking the field and performing despite injuries, such as torn shoulder ligaments, a detached pectoral muscle, a hairline fractured tibia and a broken bone in the foot. However, he is well known for a sack on Washington Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann's during a 1985 Monday Night Football game that inadvertently resulted in a compound fracture of Theismann's right leg. Immediately after the sack, a distraught Lawrence Taylor frantically screamed for paramedics to attend to Theismann. Theismann never played again, and to his credit, he has never blamed Taylor for the injury. Taylor claims he has never seen the video clip of the play and says he never wants to.
A ruptured Achilles tendon sidelined him in 1992 and after only one more year of play, Taylor retired in 1993.
In contrast to his success on the football field, Taylor's life has been marred by drug usage and controversy. Once asked what he could do that no outside linebacker could, his answer was, "Drink", but his problems ran much deeper than alcohol. After admitting to cocaine abuse in 1987, he was suspended from football for 30 days in 1988 after failing a drug test. He went through drug rehab twice in 1995, only to later be arrested twice over a three year span for attempting to buy cocaine (from undercover officers).
In a November 2003 interview with Mike Wallace on the TV news magazine 60 Minutes, Taylor claimed he hired and sent prostitutes to opponents' hotel rooms the night before a game in an attempt to tire them out and that, at his peak, he spent thousands of dollars a day on narcotics.
Despite his damaged personal reputation courtesy of his drug use and run-ins with the law, his talents on the football field were spotlighted as he joined the Class of 1999 in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, after being selected the very first year of his eligibility. That same year, he was ranked number 4 on The Sporting News' list of the 100 Greatest Football Players, the highest-ranking defensive player, and the highest-ranking player for a New York City-area football team.
After the NFL, and the recovery
In the first few years after his career ended Taylor worked in several regular television jobs. Taylor initially worked as a football analyst for the now defunct TNT Sunday Night Football. For a brief time after that Taylor appeared as a personality in the World Wrestling Federation engaging in matches with Bam Bam Bigelow among others. Taylor also worked as a color commentator on a fighting program entitled Toughman on the FX Network channel.
Taylor has recently been pursuing a career in acting, appearing in the Oliver Stone movie, Any Given Sunday where he played a character very much like himself. He also appeared as himself in both the HBO series The Sopranos and the film The Waterboy. He added his voice to the controversial video game, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, playing the steroid-riddled, possibly insane former football player BJ Smith, a character that pokes fun at his fearsome, drug-fueled public image. He also added his voice to the video game Blitz: The League, which was based on his life in the NFL.
In recent years, Taylor has cleaned up his life and lived a clean lifestyle since 1999. After his soul-wrenching admission with Mike Wallace, LT has reignited his popularity with the public. He has become a consumer of well-known health and wellness products and spends a good deal of time promoting good health and natural, toxin-free living. He is an avid golfer and spends a good deal of his time focusing on health-related issues.
Giants teammate Phil Simms celebrated the retirement of his jersey by throwing a touchdown pass to Taylor.
- Pro Football Hall of Fame: Member profile
- CBS News' L.T. Over The Edge
- ESPN.com L.T. was reckless, magnificent
- Lawrence Taylor IMDB Entry