New York Giants: Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor
By Michael Stewart
In the 1981 NFL Draft, the New York Giants had the 2nd overall selection, however; they needed a miracle if they wanted Taylor as 26 of the 28 GM’s in the NFL said that they would take Lawrence Taylor if they had the 1st overall pick. Well somehow the football Gods were watching over the Giants on draft day as one of the 2 GM’s who wouldn’t draft Lawrence was GM Bum Phillips (also was the Head Coach) of the New Orleans Saints who happen to be selecting 1st.
True to his word on draft day, Phillips selected Heisman Trophy winner RB George Rogers ahead of Taylor and the New York Giants GM George Young wasted no time in selecting Taylor with the 2nd overall pick. Ironically, it was George Young who predicted that Taylor would have a better career than Hall of Famer Dick Butkus days before the draft.
Initially, playing in New York was not Taylor’s first choice. Taylor’s favorite player was #56 Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson who had played for the Cowboys and based on his visit to Giants Stadium weeks before the draft he was not impressed with facilities. Taylor also added that a phone call from Giants Linebacker Harry Carson changed his perspective.
In his first training camp as a Giant, it was apparent that the Giants struck gold with their 1st round pick as Taylor displayed a combination of power and speed at the linebacker position that no one has ever seen. Many of Taylor’s teammates suggested they replace his locker with a phone booth, as his Superman like talents were on display daily. Taylor made his NFL exhibition debut on August 8, 1981, recording 2 sacks in the Giants’ 23–7 win over the Chicago Bears.
Taylor made his NFL regular season debut against the Philadelphia Eagles on September 6, 1981. He would finish his rookie season with 9.5 sacks and named NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and also Defensive Player of the Year. In fact, the Giants gave up 425 points in 1980 and a year later with Taylor only 257 points and a 9-7 record.
Taylor’s love-hate relationship with Bill Parcells is well documented. Parcells had a way of pushing the right buttons on players to motivate them to perform better. Unfortunately; Taylor didn’t like Parcells method of motivation and let him know it by threatening to leave the team or force the team to trade him. Of course, Parcells method of motivation towards Taylor was handled differently from that point on.
Taylor ended his career with 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), nine interceptions, 134 return yards, two touchdowns, 33 forced fumbles, 11 fumble recoveries, and 34 fumble return yards. However; the most memorable and most cherished moments in Taylor’s Hall of Fame career was winning the Super Bowl in 1986 and 1990.
Final Thoughts: During my lifetime in watching football, I’ve seen Dick Butkus in his prime and other great linebackers. When someone would asked me “who was the greatest linebacker to ever play the game,” I reply without hesitation “LT.” Not many fans realize this but Taylor is the reason we have the double tight-end formation and why the H-back was developed (created by former Redskins Head Coach Joe Gibbs).
He was so un-blockable that teams would often assign 3 players to block him. This is not just my opinion or praises on LT, former coaches like John Madden was quoted “Lawrence Taylor, defensively, has had as big an impact as any player I’ve ever seen. He changed the way defense is played, the way pass-rushing is played, the way linebackers play and the way offenses block linebackers.”
Taylor is considered one of the best players to ever play in the NFL, and has been ranked as the top defensive player in league history by news outlets, media members, former players and coaches. He has also been described as one of the most “feared” and “intimidating” players in NFL history. Taylor’s explosive speed and power is credited with changing the position of outside linebacker from a “read and react” type of position to a more attacking, aggressive position. Lawrence Taylor is without a doubt the best draft pick ever by the New York Giants and greatest player in team history.