LT: On the first day of minicamp, I was fourth-team. By the second day I was second-team. I thought I was doing pretty good. But Bill Parcells, the defensive coordinator, was on my ass every play. He made me feel like I couldnt do anything right. I had never had anybody ride me like that.
BILL PARCELLS: You try to find out what your player is gonna respond to. You might even do something that stings him. Youre just trying to see what type of competitor he is.
MIKE DENNIS, Giants cornerback, 1980-83: I stopped in LTs room once, and he was almost crying. He was pouting, stomping his feet on the ground, hitting the headboard. Parcells was breaking him. He would say, You look like a doberman with your ears all pricked up. everybody knows youre ready to rush. Parcells wouldnt give him a break. Hed also say, Son, youre like a ball in high grass. Do you know what that is? LT would say, No. Bill would say, Lost.
LT: One day, Id had enough and said to Bill, Cut me, trade me or put someone else in. But get off my back! Bill looked at me and didnt say anything. Later, he told some of the older players, I like that LT.
BUTCH WOOLFOLK, Giants running back, 1982-84: He never needed much sleep. After a long night, hed come into the locker room, shower, drink all the Scope he could and sit in the back of the meeting room. He drank so much liquor it came out of his pores. You could smell it.
LT: Byron Hunt was my roommate on the road. Anybody who stepped into our hotel room knocked over beer bottles. My favorite cities for partying were Phoenix, LA, Washington, Atlanta and hell, how many cities have NFL franchises? The best party city of all, of course, is New York.
BYRON HUNT, Giants linebacker, 1981-88: Early on, we shared a house, and we had some memorable parties. One night, there was a guy or girl in every room and every closet, either sleeping or having sex. And that was a three-bedroom house with a study, living room, kitchen, dining room, pantry, basement. Oh, I forgot the shower. There were two or three people in there, too. We were living the dream. We had two things in that refrigerator: Budweiser and what was called a strawberry shake; thats strawberry-flavored penicillin for any disease you might get from being with the wrong women.
LT: I loved the big city, the bright lights and all the action. By 83, on a typical night out, Id get some coke from some Spanish guys in Harlem. In the apartment thered be one guy with a .38. thered be another guy sitting at a table. Id tell him how much I wanted, hed measure it and put it in a bag. Id buy about six, seven hundred dollars worth, then, look out world.
To keep myself entertained, Id stand on a bar stool, then dive off into a handstand. Or pull one of my old college tricks and chew some glass. Pitchers of kamikazes can do that to you. One time in Houston, some guys on the Oilers tried to mess my game up by sending two girls to my hotel.
HUNT: We ordered a case of champagne from room service. We had a 4 oclock game the next day, so we figured we had plenty of time. Theres a knock on the door, and two gorgeous girls walk in. Lawrence and I look at each other and just smile. We pour the champagne, and have light conversation for a couple of bottles. Then they go into the bathroom. When they come out they got nothing but towels on. We continue to drink champagne. By the sixth bottle, the towels are gone and Lawrence is in one bed and Im in the other bed. Every once in a while, wed look at each other and wed be thinking, isnt pro football great?
LIONEL MANUEL, Giants wide receiver, 1984-90: At strip clubs, the bartender would come out and lay a bunch of tens or twenties, sometimes fifties, on the stage. He was doing it for LT. But LT wouldnt stop there. Sometimes hed remove his shirt and slide down the pole like the dancers. Wed get our money out and act like we were gonna give him some.
LT: Talented, arent I? Anyway, gameday, we had to be on the field at 12:05. I would usually get to the locker room about 11:40. One time in St. Louis, I was late and my teammates had to stalldoing extra stretching in the locker roomso I could join them on the field.
MANUEL: The coaches were asking, Anybody seen Lawrence? So trainer Ronnie Barnes had one of his men go to lts hotel room. The guys out on the floor. Tequila. As we were coming in from warmups, they brought him in. They were putting ice towels on him, giving him coffee. They dressed him and taped his ankles. The sonuvabitch had four sacks.
PHIL McCONKEY, Giants wide receiver, 1984-88: One time he burst into the locker room before a game with a gleam in his eye, and announced, All right, fellas, lets see what I can do on eight hours of sleep!
LT: After my urine turned up dirty, I started carrying an empty aspirin bottle and getting a clean teammate to piss in it for me before the tests.
WOOLFOLK: I didnt drink or smoke or do any drugs, so LT would say, Meet me in the bathroom. I peed for him a couple of times.
LT: Id then put that full bottle into my jock, get my empty test bottle, go off to a stall and pour the clean urine into the bottle. Later, the testers had someone stand behind me while I faced the urinal. I beat that, too, with a soft squeeze bottle, a visine bottle. When I stood at the urinal, I just reached down and squeezed the bottle.
What really convinced me I needed to get help was an incident at the Pro Bowl. A reporter told me about rumors that I was doing crack. He said, There are whispers you might be doing something, because the Giants are having you followed. I knew I was in trouble, and in March of 1986, I made a trip to rehab in Houston.
I think I had been there three days when Howard Cosell went on the radio and told the world. The press came after me. They didnt let up for months: The Giants dont deserve this and He let the team down. That pissed me off. My answer was, Just look at my stats!
LT: Bill told us before the Super Bowl, You guys are going to read a lot of things from me this week. Dont believe a word. Im going to blow so much smoke up Buffalos skirts. Let em start believing how good they are.
So thats what we all did. All week we said, Shucks, Buffalo is so good. A few days before the game, there was a picture in the Tampa Tribune of some Bills in a jewelry store getting sized for Super Bowl rings! Bill showed us that and said, We got em, boys!
Super Bowl XXV came down to the final seconds. We were clinging to a 2019 lead. At that point in my career, I wasnt on the field goal block team, but when Scott Norwood lined up for that 47-yarder, I was on that field. I said to myself, This is an LT moment. They snapped the ball. I dove. It wasnt an LT moment.
The kick went up, and I was on the ground face-first. I didnt look up. Instead, I looked at Erik Howard. He was on his butt looking back, watching the kick. I didnt want to see it.
It was wide right.
As we carried Bill off the field, with the lights flashing and everyone hollering, I had no idea it was the beginning of the end of my career.
LT: I wasnt leaving the game the best player, but I was LT enough of the time to help us go 115 and make the playoffs. I could pick my spots like Ali did at the end of his career. You know, rope-a-dope here, rope-a-dope there.
COREY MILLER, Giants linebacker, 1991-97: That whole year he was real quiet. He didnt seem as motivated. I used to have to wake his ass to go on the field. Id shake him and say, Lawrence, we gotta go!
LT: I didnt know what I wanted to do after football. For the most part, my future was up in the air. I did have one firm commitment, though. I reminded myself, Im going to start doing recreational drugs again. Id been tested by the NFL for so long, and I remember thinking, Hey, no more pissin in the bottle. I must have led the daggone league in pissin in a bottle. And now there was nothing to keep me from going back to cocaine.
A DIFFERENT KIND OF JOCK ITCH
Taylor started the 1986 season mad and focused. It showed. He had 20.5 sacks, won the leagues MVP award and led the Giants to Super Bowl XXI against Denver.
LT: Some reporter asked me, When do you know youre ready? I told him, When you feel like slapping your mama. We werent ready to slap anybodys mama. The Broncos came out with a reverse, a 20-yard pass, a little flea-flicker, a double reverse. We went into the locker room down 10-9 at halftime. Bill doesnt say anything. Hes pissed and guys are moping. It was my duty to say something, so I said, Listen, guys: the score is 10-9, and they got every break, and we played no Giant football. Were about to go out and kick these sonuvabitches in the ass. We did, winning 39-20.
When the Super Bowl was over, everyone was so excited, but I felt deflated. It was like, okay, games over, whats next? Id won every award, had my best season, finally won the Super Bowl. The thrill is the chase to get to the top. Every week the excitement builds and builds and builds. Then the game is over. And then, nothing. I felt that itch. And it needed scratching.
IT WAS A DARK AND SCARY NIGHT
After retiring, Taylor wasnt done making headlines: twice in the 1990s, he was arrested for crack possession.
LT: Sonuvabitch put a gun to my head. I thought I was dead. It was the mid-90s. I was cruising through a nasty-ass place in Spring Valley, N.Y., called The Hill. It was late. Real late. But I wanted cocaine. I needed cocaine. My name is Lawrence Taylor and Im an addict. Addicts dont care if they have to venture into hellholes like The Hill if theres a pot of cocaine at the end of the rainbow.
I saw three guys who looked like they were carrying. They were all young black dudes, but I couldnt tell you nothing else about them. I pulled over in my Cadillac, and one guy got in the front seat and one guy got in the back. I didnt like that, so I said, Yo, I dont want two guys in my car. But the third guy standing outside pulled out some crack, so I bought it. Then, I noticed the guy in the front seat was looking hard at my gold Rolex with diamonds. I had a bad feeling, so I said, Yall have to get out of my car.
The guy in the backseat got out. But the guy in the front seat turned toward me, stuck a gun in my face, and said, Gimme the watch, motherfer. I said, Noooooo problem, bro. Just dont shoot. I gave him the watch. Then he said he wanted my diamond pinkie ring. He just started tugging on it. I was like, Hey, man, Ill get it off.
I handed him the ring. then he handed his gun to the guy standing outside the car and told him to get in. Now I realized theyre about to jack me. The guy with the gun pulled on the back door, but the door was locked, so his pal in the front seat had to reach over and unlock it. As he opened the door, I saw my opening. I slammed the Caddy into drive, and stomped on the gas. I banged over the curb, swerving like a crazy man, and the guy sitting next to me was screaming, Stop, motherfer! Im going to kill you! We go about 200 yards before I remember this punk aint got no gun. He gave it to the other guy. So I screeched to a stop and started pounding him in the face. I wasnt scared now. Wheres my s? Bam! Gimme my s! Bam! Bam!
The passenger door was still open, so I grabbed the punk by the neck and shoved him out of the car.
And then I drove home and smoked his crack.