Former Miami Dolphins defensive end and current Hall of Fame enshrinee Jason Taylor took part in a conference call on Wednesday afternoon, during which he gave some insight on what it took to reach such a high point in his career, as well as what it means to be honored in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Taylor discussed how he had to overcome a size disadvantage in the beginning of his career given that he came into the league at just 240-245 lbs. Back in 1997, when Taylor was a rookie, that size was quite small for a defensive end. Taylor also mentioned how he feels he’s been a part of a revolution for players of his size becoming successful on the defensive side of the football. “There were a lot of questions as to whether I could survive and thrive at that weight. The game has evolved now. This ‘tweener,’ they used to call them back in the day, is now what teams are looking to draft. The game has changed. The position has changed, and it’s great it be a part of [that].”
Taylor also touched on whether there was a point in his career where he actually entertained the thought of reaching Hall of Fame status. “There was chatter, probably [around] 2006 or 2007. You don’t really focus on it. You hear it… [but] it was never the goal. It was never something I would shoot for. It was just a product of trying to put seasons together back-to-back and trying to be the best player I can be. It was always in the periphery, [but not] until you retire [do] you look back and say, hey maybe there’s a shot.”
When asked what he his most special moments have been since learning he would be a member of the Hall of Fame class of 2017, Taylor specifically mentioned visiting the Hall of Fame in Canton Ohio just a month after the Super Bowl, but then selected one specific unforgettable experience as the one that will always stand out in his mind. “The best part was getting the knock on the door in Houston at the Super Bowl. That’s number one.” For those who don’t know, the Hall of Fame inductees are informed of their status during the weekend of the Super Bowl. During the weekend of Super Bowl LI, Taylor received a knock on his hotel room door from a representative of the Hall who told him that he would be inducted as a first ballot Hall of Famer.
Taylor expanded on how his life has changed since becoming a Pro Football Hall of Famer, and more specifically, how he’s been able to further impact the lives of others. “The power and influence you can have over somebody's day. I went from Jason Taylor, the football player from the Miami Dolphins to ‘he’s a Hall of Famer.’ You see the look on people’s faces, adults and kids alike. That’s the best part of it. It’s having the ability to make a kid smile… Those are the coolest moments. Those are the most special moments.”
If you are lucky enough to be in the Canton area during the enshrinement ceremony next weekend, Taylor left no doubt about the fact that you will be joined by quite a few of his former teammates sharing in the festivities. Some of the more prominent names include Cameron Wake, Mike Pouncey, O.J. McDuffie, and Phinsider favorite John Denney.
One of the most surprising moments of the conversation was when Taylor named the toughest quarterback he’s ever tried to sack. The longtime defensive end has certainly sacked his fair share of quarterbacks, as he accumulated a grand total of 139.5 sacks over the course of his 15 year career. Among his top candidates were Ben Roethlisberger due to the quarterback’s size and Michael Vick due to his speed, but Taylor stated that the quarterback whom he had the most difficulty getting to was none other than Peyton Manning. “He had a knack for getting rid of the ball in time,” Taylor explained. “Everything was so timed with him. You might get a clean rush, you might make a great move and get close, but the ball [was] going to be gone.”
On a personal note, Taylor got the chance to discuss who most inspired him to become the athlete and man that he is today. Taylor said “the person I most looked up to in life was my mother, but outside of that it would be Michael Jordan. All I ever wanted to do was play basketball and be like Mike. So many of the lessons that you can find in an idol in a different sport or a different walk of life are the same characteristics that relate to your particular sport too. There were so many things I took from trying to be like Mike, that competitiveness, the grind, trying to overcome disappointment. My high school coach I [also] give a lot of credit to for inspiring that.”
Taylor will be officially inducted during the Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony, which will take place on Saturday, August 5th at 7:00 PM in Canton, Ohio.