Fred Taylor is no longer a Jaguar, but that doesn't mean that Fred Taylor no longer makes an impression upon me. Fred Taylor represented football to me, everything good in football, was Fred Taylor. I never met him, but he left a profound impact upon my life. These games can get emotional and Fred's presence on the field would calm my worries.
Fred, to me, was assurance. When Fred was on the field, I knew that down had a strong chance of being converted. Not a lot teams or their fans can say that. When Fred was on the field, all was right in the world, the worries of tomorrow were gone because I got to watch Fred play. When he missed the last few games of 2008 it was like they weren't as big of a deal. They were just football, but when Fred was on the field, it became football. A different game when that man was there, he dipped his shoulders and ran people over. He moved his upper body to the left and his feet in every other feasible direction, only to run right. The defender never had a chance.
I remember in 2007, we were playing against the Bills. There was this one play that I will always remember, Fred breaking a 50-yarder or so for a TD. I knew Fred was fast. I knew he was, "Fast Freddy", but I didn't know he was lightning fast, faster than anyone else on the field. The announcers on ESPN and whatever broadcast I was watching had recently spoke of Fred slowing, of getting old and losing a step. Listen, everyone loses a step, but when you are three steps ahead of everyone, you don't get behind when you lose a step. You are still ahead... You are still Fred Taylor. When Fred broke that run against the Bills, my mouth dropped.
MJD can run as fast as he wants, and he is a very fast man, but, he is not that fast. Don't get me wrong, I love Maurice. Great man on and off the field, but he is not 28. 28 is special, 28 is "all day". 28 gives D-coordinators fits when they game plan. They know they have to crowd the box, they know that when he is on the field, he might score at any given moment. It's a terrible situation for them. That speed on that play came from a 32-year old body. It was flat-out amazing. It was greatness. It was my hero, my football icon-Fred Taylor.
Fred is a great and he can't be replaced, only remembered. When I watch an interview with him, I feel welcome to be there. I feel like I'm watching a true man and I learn. I learn how to deal with adversity, how to ignore pain and keep going. How to ignore hate and how to be humble. I believe MJD felt the same way. Fred made sure to love this town, to love the organization, the fans. Most of all, he taught that to Maurice, or at least reminded him of it constantly. He also taught MJD that professional football is a business. Unfortunately, Fred was able to teach him this first hand, as he was cut this spring.
As fans, we can't have what we want. We only get what someone else thinks we need. This may be the right move long-term, this may be the right move financially, but Fred is gone. There is no pretty way to say this. He is in New England now, and I hope everyone treats him with the utmost respect. I hope he gets the notice he needs to get into the Hall of Fame. He deserves this, and the NFL needs him. When players are caught doing wrong for various reasons nowadays, you want Fred Taylor representing your sport. You want the casual fan to say,"Oh, they're no Fred Taylor!". As opposed to,"Man! The NFL is a bunch of overpaid criminals!".
Fred was "the" player to me, you know the one you grew up watching when you knew you liked football but you didn't know how much. You didn't know how special football was for you until that one day that it clicked. That day you said to yourself,"Man, how long is the off-season?". Fred was the constant for me. He traveled with me through the days when i liked football to the days when I loved football.
Nowadays, I feel like all I do is analyze football. It might be the only way I can stay close to the game I love. I hope i don't become a "numbers" guy. I hope I don't lose my love for the game. I want to appreciate the game in the fullest way I ca, and I want to love the game the way Fred Taylor does. Without Fred, it will become difficult, as he was my football figure. He showed me the game, and taught me how to love it. Performance, Interviews, and "Ask Fred". All of this showed me what it was to be professional.
No one else will be Fred Taylor. My football hero is on another team! it still hasn't sunk in, yet. This saddens me to no end, so,I will rebel and wear my #28 jersey next year. I will phase it out, and it will be worn less and less the year after, but Fred will never be forgotten. My children, if am lucky enough to have any, will know Fred Taylor. They will learn what he taught me and they will pass this down to their children. Fred has forever left a cleat-print on my life, and I appreciate what he has done for me. I hope this article shows that.
This season, I will sit and now watch #21, Fred Taylor, HB New England Patriots. I will hear the announcers surprise when he dips his shoulders and runs people over, when he moves his upper body to the left and his feet in every other feasible direction only to run right... and I will smile. I will smile because "Fast Freddy" is teaching some other 11 year old kid to love football the way he does, with respect for the game.
I will also sit and watch for the Jaguar's identity to be made. It will not have Fred's imprint, but it will have something there. I wait excitedly to see what it is, to see what identity the Jags can carve out with no Fred Taylor leading the locker-room. Will the man who fills the void do so in a way that makes me want to tell my future children about him and his story. Will he impact me the way that Fred did? I doubt it, because I'm not as impressionable as I once was. However, MJD is on the right road, and I think I am relaxed enough about his possibilities to sit and watch without worry, but, for me, there is only one childhood hero. There is only one Fred Taylor.
The "Bills play" is at 2:38.
Thanks for the lessons and for the memories Fred.
Forever a Fred Taylor fan,