Miami Dolphin Jason Taylor earned rave reviews Monday for his debut foxtrot on ABC's Dancing with the Stars, much to the reported chagrin of his new boss, Bill Parcells, who would rather see him in off-season workouts. As for Taylor, he just wants to win it all. Fortunately for us, he'll be checking in here every week until he's eliminated. If he's eliminated, that is. —TOM FRIEND
No one's ever accused me of being a dancer before. The only time I'd ever danced—before going on this show—I ended up in the hospital. I was doing the Michael Jackson dance from "Thiller" when I was 11, spun around and fell face-first on a speaker in my house. I was bleeding between the eyes. It's still the most visible scar I've got on my body. I guess you could say my expectations for myself were pretty low coming into this.
But I'm actually having more fun than I thought I would. You can't come in here and look at it as a job and labor through it. You've got to go for it. And, trust me, there hasn't been a dull moment.
When I first got to the show, we had to do something they call "Title Shoots.'' It's a day full of photos and interviews. So I walk into the dressing room and see this dancer guy putting on a onesie—like the kind that babies wear. He's having a hard time strapping this thing on, trying to reach through to snap the snap. I was afraid he was going to ask me to help him out. So I walked out and went to my partner and asked her what he was doing. She explained how it helps keep your clothes tucked in when you're dancing. I told her right then and there—that ain't happening for me.
Supposedly, all dancers wear 'em to keep their shirts in, so you don't look like a mess. But, there has to be another way. Last week I wore a vest to cover up, but this week, I just have a shirt and a pair of pants. I'm going to call the Dolphins equipment guy to get some two-way tape or something, maybe sew my shirt to my pants. I'll use shoelaces to tie it down around my ankles if I have to. But I'm not putting on a onesie.
As we got closer to the first show, I had to pick out a dance shirt. There was a plain one and one with black sequins. I figured, if you're going to to do this, you've got to go the whole way. I picked the sequins. Maybe I should put some sequins on my 99 for opening day and let everyone have their laugh and get it over with.
The dancing shoes also took some getting used to—they're thin, flimsy light things, with no support. My feet were killing me for that first week and a half. Then again, everything was killing me. Right now, I'm in, by far, the best shape I've been in in March in my career. Everyone's making this big thing about the off-season program and all that. But when I won Defensive Player Of the Year [in 2006], I made less than half of the workouts in the off-season. And last season, when I didn't have as big a year, I was in the off-season program 75 to 80 percent of the time.
They're making a big deal about nothing.
Now? I'll be up at 7:30 and go lift. Then I'll head over to the dance studio and I'll dance from 11 to 2. Then I'll eat lunch for an hour and then come back and dance another three hours. I'll dance six hours a day. It's a different training for a minute-and-a-half or two-minute dance. In football you train to play 10 second plays for 60 minutes. But there's no better way right now for me to get in shape and burn fat than what I'm doing. I've got more lean muscle than I've had in probably 10 years. I'm seeing my abs again. I was getting a little chubby smoking cigars and playing golf.
Plus, the world is watching, including my team and other NFL guys. I got text messages or calls from Zach Thomas, Junior Seau and a bunch of other guys. They don't bust my chops. They're supportive. I surprised them that first night and they said, "Congrats for not totally embarrassing yourself.'' They like my partner, too. I think they want to dance next season.
I also got a text from Coach Sparano after the first show. "Great job," he said. "You looked nervous, you looked a little winded because you were nervous, but great job.'' I told Coach Sparano I really appreciated the support. Just a simple text message. It was nice to get.
We haven't really gotten a whole lot of support from the Dolphins or from the NFL for this thing, which blows my mind. We've got so many problems in the league right now that are so public. Then you have someone bringing positive recognition to the NFL and to Miami Dolphins on a weekly basis in front of 25 million people, and nobody seems to want to get on board. That makes my teammates support mean even more.
Trust me, this is nerve-wracking. Monday I didn't really enjoy a whole lot, because I was so nervous and worried about messing up. The nerves were really there. But now that I've gone through it one time, and danced and been on the stage, and it's been put on TV and all that, the big nerves have calmed down a little bit and I think I'll be more relaxed and able to get into it more.
We're dancing a different type of song next week—the mambo—so it'll be a lot more relaxed. The dance is fast, and I have to move my hips. The fast part I like and can deal with. But the moving the hips part, and making it look like a real mambo is the challenge. Hopefully, I'll have a lot more fun and that'll come across on my face.
But you know what you can do to help me out? Watch my partner. Just keep an eye on Edyta and you won't see all the things I screw up. People need to just focus on her, not on me, and that way I won't look as bad.
In my sequins.