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L.T. was reckless, magnificent

Wednesday, November 19, 2003
Taylor redefined the outside linebacker position
By Larry Schwartz
Special to

Signature Game

Nov. 27, 1988 - The Giants were hurting. Quarterback Phil Simms was injured and so were Harry Carson and Carl Banks, Pro Bowl linebackers last season. Taylor himself was severely hurt, with a torn deltoid muscle in his right shoulder. But with his three teammates out for tonight's game against the 9-3 Saints in New Orleans, L.T. knew he couldn't sit out with the 7-5 Giants fighting for a playoff berth.

Playing in excruciating pain and with his shoulder lacking its usual strength, all L.T. did was make three sacks, four other tackles and force two fumbles. With the defense preventing the Saints from reaching the end zone for the first time all season, the Giants registered a 13-12 victory.

"When you see a guy play like Lawrence did tonight, it picks everyone up," said Giants linebacker Gary Reasons.

After the victory, Giants coach Bill Parcells went over to L.T. and they touched foreheads. "He knew and I knew, but no one else knew what he had gone through," Parcells said.

The coach told his star player, "You were great tonight."

L.T. replied, "I don't know how I made it."

While Taylor's coach and teammates were praising him, the linebacker was back in the trainer's room. "I wanted to cry because I felt like somebody had torn my shoulder off," he said.

Odds 'n' Ends

  • In his All-American senior season at North Carolina, L.T. had 16 sacks and was the ACC's Player of the Year.

  • The only player picked ahead of Taylor in the 1981 draft was Heisman Trophy-winning running back George Rogers, by the Saints.

  • Two days after the draft, Steve Streater, Taylor's college roommate who had signed with the Washington Redskins as a free agent, was paralyzed in a car accident. Taylor bolted from the Giants' rookie training camp to visit Streater in the hospital. L.T. was so despondent he considered quitting football.

  • Taylor returned an interception 97 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter to give the Giants a 13-6 victory over the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving in 1982.

  • In 1983, Taylor agreed to a four-year, $3.25 million contract with the USFL New Jersey Generals. The Giants countered with a six-year, $6.55-million package, and the linebacker stayed with them.

  • L.T.: "Sunday is a different world. It's like a fantasy world which I'd rather live in. Then I go back to the rest of the world and that's when the trouble starts."

  • Taylor admitted to cheating on random drug tests in 1985 by slipping an aspirin bottle containing teammate's urine into his jock strap.

  • On Aug. 15, 1987, Taylor failed an NFL drug test. Because it was his first offense, he wasn't penalized but only received a warning. The following August he was suspended for 30 days for failing a second drug test.

  • L.T.'s No. 56 was officially retired at halftime of the Giants-Vikings Monday night game on Oct. 10, 1994.

  • He worked the 1994 season as a NFL analyst for TNT.

  • Needing money, Taylor wrestled Bam Bam Bigelow in Wrestlemania XI for $500,000 in April 1995.

  • Also in 1995, his business, All-Pro Products, collapsed. Because of stock fraud by two former traders, the company was worth practically nothing. It had been valued at $10.8 million after going public in 1993. L.T. lost several hundred thousand dollars.

  • In 1996, he was arrested in Myrtle Beach, S.C., for allegedly trying to buy $100 worth of crack cocaine from an undercover cop.

  • In 1997, he pled guilty to filing a false federal tax return.

  • He was arrested three times in 1998: once for failing to pay child support and twice on drug-related charges. In October, he checked into a rehab center after being arrested for allegedly trying to buy crack from an undercover office in St. Petersburg, Fla. In December, he surrendered to Teaneck (N.J.) police to face charges of possession of narcotics and paraphernalia.

  • In 1998 he also filed for bankruptcy to keep creditors from seizing his $605,000 house in Upper Saddle River, N.J.

  • L.T. appeared in the movies "The Waterboy" and "On Any Given Sunday," a fictitious look at life in the NFL.

  • On Jan. 30, 1999, Taylor was elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.

  • At his induction on Aug. 7, 1999, he was introduced by his 17-year-old son, Lawrence Jr.

  • Already on probation for a drug charge, Taylor was sentenced on April 7, 2000 to three months' house arrest, five years' probation and 500 hours of community service for income-tax evasion. He had pleaded guilty in 1997 to filing a false return for 1990.

  • Taylor: "I got to live my life the best way I can. I answer to no man, and when all is said and done, it will be one hell of a testimony."

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