#4- Lawrence Taylor
With the #1 pick in the 1981 NFL draft, The New Orleans Saints selected Running Back George Rogers.
And just like that…the destiny of the New York Football Giants was changed forever. It’s hard to imagine a #2 overall pick being a steal, but Lawrence Taylor was just that. Widely regarded as one of the greatest college football players ever during his time at Chapel hill. The kid from North Carolina would not only change the way offenses game-planned against individual players, but he would become arguably the greatest defensive player in NFL history. In a draft class that would produce 7 Hall of Famers, New York got their hands on the best of that bunch.
Taylor’s talent was evident from the start of training camp, people were talking about the exploits of the new phenom. Taylor’s teammates took to calling him Superman and joked that his locker should be replaced with a phone booth.
“On the pass rush, he’s an animal. He’s either going to run around you or over you. With his quickness, he’s full speed after two steps.”– QB Phil Simms
“LT” would make an immediate impact on the field as soon as the regular season started, taking the league by storm while terrorizing opposing offenses, in route to winning NFL Defensive Rookie of the year. This wasn’t your typical rookie, who had trouble adjusting to the league and blending in with his teammates. There was just something special about #56 from the minute he showed up at Giants stadium.
“On the Football field I felt my level of play or my level of ability was pretty high up there, and the things I could do, they just couldn’t replicate. It’s really something when you know the things you can do, they just can’t stop.”– Lawrence Taylor
Something that also sped up Taylor’s development was a very tight bond with then defensive coordinator Bill Parcells. The soon-to-be Giants Head Coach, allowed LT’s talents to flourish on the football field. Even if it meant Taylor calling his own defensive assignments at times.
“That’s my guy, we came together in the same system. He’s dynamic and very easy to coach. That was the great thing about Lawerence, you teach him something and he’s instantly taking it with him. That’s your job as a coach when you have a special talent like that. Just put him in a position to flourish, step back and watch it happen.”– Bill Parcels
Rewriting the record books
- NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Award (1981)
- NFL Defensive Player of the Year a record three times (1981, 1982, 1986),
- First-team All-Pro six times
- NFL MVP – the first defensive player in NFL history unanimously voted the league’s MVP (1986)
- Led the Giants to a Super Bowl victory over Denver.
Taylor would also lead New York back to the promised land in 1990, as his defensive unit shut down the Buffalo Bills high flying historical offense 20-19. Taylor finished his career with 132.5 sacks (9.5 sacks from his rookie year were not accounted for since sacks weren’t recorded until 1982) and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1999.
Taylor completely changed the trajectory of a once proud, but then dormant franchise. He will forever be known around these parts as “The Goat”.