Although it's high praise to be compared to the fictitious Man of Steel, in Lawrence Taylor's case it's entirely appropriate. "If there was ever a Superman in the NFL," said former Washington Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann, "I think he wore No. 56 for the Giants."
When Taylor (born 1959) arrived in New York in 1981, the Giants hadn't been to the playoffs in 17 seasons. They hadn't even had a winning record for eight years. So the rookie first-round draft pick out of the University of North Carolina made it his personal quest to return his new team to greatness.
Starting in Taylor's first season, the Giants began a 10-season streak in which they made the playoffs six times and won two Super Bowls. "He was the catalyst," said Bill Parcells, his former coach.
The consummate player, Taylor redefined the linebacker position. He had the speed to run past offensive linemen and the strength to outmuscle them. During 13 seasons with the Giants, he recorded 1321/2 quarterback sacks, 1,088 tackles, 33 forced fumbles, 10 fumble recoveries, and nine interceptions.
Part of his greatness was his ability to affect the outcome of a game. Such was the case in a meeting against the New Orleans Saints in 1988. In that game, the Giants played without quarterback Phil Simms and linebacker Carl Banks, who were nursing injuries.
Taylor, who was suffering with a torn pectoral muscle in his shoulder, should have joined them on the sidelines. Wearing a harness to keep his shoulder in place, he managed to record an incredible seven tackles, three sacks, and two forced fumbles. The Giants won a squeaker 13-12. "I thought that was his most spectacular game," declared Parcells. "I thought it was his finest hour from a courage standpoint."
Taylor's accomplishments are many. A 10-time Pro Bowl selection, he recorded a career-high 201/2 sacks and was named the NFL's MVP in 1986. In 1994, L. T. moved one step closer to his eventual Hall of Fame enshrinement when he was named to the NFL's 75th Anniversary All-Time Team.
To learn more about football greats, see:
- Great Football Players
- Great Offensive Football Players
- Great Defensive Football Players
- Great Football Coaches