It was the worst of times and the best of times for Jim Taylor. Worst because in eras other than the one that featured Jim Brown, Taylor might have been considered pro football's premier fullback. Best because he was able to star for the winningest team of the time, the Green Bay Packers of Vince Lombardi.
Even though he was overshadowed by Brown in most seasons, Taylor (born 1935) carved out an enviable reputation as a man who could get crucial yards.
Lombardi called him "the most determined runner I've ever seen." His five straight seasons of gaining more than 1,000 yards was something even Brown never accomplished.
An All-American at Louisiana State in 1957, Taylor was used only sparingly when he joined the Packers, even though the team was at the very bottom of the NFL standings. Only in the Packers' last two games was he given the football.
When coach Lombardi took over the team in 1959, he studied films of all the Packers games of the year before and discovered his fullback.
Taylor absorbed Lombardi's "run to daylight" philosophy and blossomed into a great runner. Though undersized for a fullback at 215 pounds, Taylor was a weight-lifting addict and able to generate astonishing blasting power when he lowered his head and slammed into defenders.
He led the Packers in rushing each year from 1960-1966, a period in which Green Bay won five division titles and four NFL championships, including their victory in Super Bowl I.
Taylor's greatest season was 1962, when his 1,474 rushing yards topped all NFL runners including Jim Brown. He also led the NFL in scoring with 114 points on 19 touchdowns.
A fierce blocker whether protecting Packer quarterback Bart Starr or leading halfback Paul Hornung on the famous "Packer Sweep," Taylor gained most of his own yardage between the tackles. Taylor, who was named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1976, rushed for 8,597 yards and 83 touchdowns in 10 NFL seasons.
Taylor attributed his accomplishments less to talent than to desire. His belief was that the player who wanted success the most would usually achieve it.
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