Lawrence Taylor may have been the most feared player in his day. The Hall-of-Fame New York Giants linebacker was a wild man both on and off the football field. No defensive player was more of a disruptor than the man they called LT.
Taylor was ferocious, tenacious, and intense. He carried that with him off the field as well. Bill Belichick, the New England Patriots coach, who coached Taylor with the Giants, once explained how aggressive No. 56 was in the film room.
Lawrence Taylor wasted no time making noise in the NFL
The Giants made Taylor the second overall pick in the 1981 NFL Draft. After the New Orleans Saints selected running back George Rogers with the top overall pick, the Giants pounced on the linebacker from North Carolina. It proved to be one heck of a move.
Taylor didn’t need any time to adjust to life in the NFL. He started all 16 games his rookie season, compiling 9.5 sacks while recording an interception. He became the first rookie ever to win Defensive Player of the Year. Taylor proved Year 1 was no fluke as he proved to be the game’s top defender with another DPOY award in the nine-game, strike-shortened season.
His best season came in 1986 when he was named the league’s MVP and claimed his third DPOY award. He played all 16 games and hounded quarterbacks to the tune of a league-leading 20.5 sacks.
Taylor played with reckless abandon. He loved getting after the quarterback, and he did whatever it took to get there. He took great pleasure, almost a creepy-type of pleasure, in bringing down the QB.
“There’s a sack, and then, there’s a sack!” LT said to Sports Illustrated in 1987. “You run up behind the quarterback. He doesn’t see you. You put your helmet in his back. Wrap yourself around him. Throw him to the ground…and the coach comes running out and asks, ‘Are you all right?'”
Lawrence Taylor was just as fierce in the film room, according to Bill Belichick
On the football field, Taylor was mean. His quickness and toughness made him one of the game’s best defensive disruptors. During his playing days, Taylor stressed he wasn’t that type of person off the field.
“I am not invincible,” Taylor said. “When people see me, they only see the football side. I’m not filled with anger and meanness. I have feelings. I’m mad. I’m happy. I have every type of emotion.”
Belichick, the Giants linebackers and special teams coach from 1980-84 before becoming the team’s defensive coordinator from 1985-1990, had a different take on Taylor’s off-the-field demeanor back in 1987.
“In defensive meetings, while we’re studying film, all of a sudden Lawrence will say, ‘Ah, Bill. Run that play back again,'” Belichick said. “And I’ll realize he’s looking at some guy – 20 yards away from the ball – a wide receiver who was knocked off the screen by a defensive back. I’ve even seen him get his thrills watching one of our own guys get dusted.”
Despite his success and tenacity, Taylor could have been much better
Nobody can argue with Taylor’s success at the NFL level. A 10-time Pro-Bowler (8-time All-Pro), a two-time Super Bowl champion, and a Pro Football Hall of Famer, Taylor was a stud. Johnny Parker, the Giants’ strength coach during Taylor’s playing days, said he could have been better had he applied himself more.
Taylor rarely participated in the off-season workouts. Parker said Taylor lifted weights “only three or four times” and that resulted in him being fined.
“Lawrence has a role to play,” Parker said in 1987. “He wants people to think it’s all-natural, God-given. Before the season, we were running 330-yard sprints. He was gasping. Afterward, he said, ‘I’ve always wanted to train. I just couldn’t ever make myself do it.’
“Lifting weights would help him more than anyone else on the Giants. He can lift weights for one hour and derive more strength and speed than others will in six days. Think of the dramatic impact that would have on the league. It isn’t that Lawrence is a lazy person. He just has a short attention span. Look, I see his point. Why should he kill himself if he can already dominate people? I fight him, but I can’t win.”
It’s amazing to think how good Taylor was, and he could have been that much better.