In the 1998 NFL Draft, the Jacksonville Jaguars wound up with two first round picks. The Jaguars acquired the 8th overall pick from the Buffalo Bills in a trade that sent the Bills Jaguars back-up quarterback Rob Johnson. Rumors flew during the draft that then head coach Tom Coughlin was trying to move up in the draft to select Penn State runningback Curtis Enis, who wound up going 5th overall to the Chicago Bears. Coughlin wound up having to "settle" for a local college product from the University of Florida, Fred Taylor.
Taylor burst onto the scene in his first regular season NFL game rushing for 71 yards, running for and catching a touchdown. You could see the Jaguars had something special in the young running back. In his rookie season, he ended the year racking up 1,223 yards, 14 rushing touchdowns, and 400 receiving yards. If it wasn't for some dude named Randy Moss, Taylor would have been a slam dunk for offensive rookie of the year.
Taylor continued to flash greatness on the field until the 2001 season, when he suffered a devastating groin injury. I remember seeing the injury happen during the game. It looked like Taylor took a shot from a sniper as he went to the ground, completely dropping the football and clutching his groin area. He'd torn the muscle from the bone. Taylor then picked up the name "Fragile Fred", unfairly, because of how Tom Coughlin portrayed his injury. To gain a competitive advantage, instead of just placing Taylor on the injured reserve knowing he'd never play again that season, Coughlin continuously listed Taylor as "probably" on the injury report.
Following the 2001 season however, Fred Taylor strung together 5 out of 6 seasons rushing for over 1,000 yards, missing only 7 games in the span due to injuries. Most of those injuries however, the head coach chose to sit him down more so than Taylor not being able to play. During that span, Taylor put together a streak of 46 consecutive starts. During the 2008 season, Taylor made his first and only Pro-Bowl in his NFL career as an injury replacement and was named 2nd team All-Pro.
On November 11th in 2007 against the hated Tennessee Titans, Taylor surpassed the 10,000 yard rushing mark for his career.
Taylor was released by the Jacksonville Jaguars on February 16th, 2009. He later signed with the New England Patriots where he played sparingly the past two seasons. All indications right now however, are likely that Fred Taylor will retire from the NFL. Taylor is currently ranked 15th all-time in rushing yards. Taylor probably won't go down as a hall of fame runningback when it's all said and done, but he's one of the most unheralded runningbacks in the history of the NFL.
It's a good thing Tom Coughlin wasn't able to get Curtis Enis.
"Who do you really like among today's running backs, Jim?" I asked, expecting to hear the normal and quite reasonable litany of Priest Holmes, Marshall Faulk, and Ricky Williams, a soupcon of Jamal Lewis, perhaps a dash of Ahman Green, a pinch of A-Train Thomas, any and all in no particular order.
"Fred Taylor," Jim Brown muttered.
"Don't know nothin' about no Fred Taylor, do you?" Jim Brown said. "Fred Taylor's the package. Fred Taylor's a man. He's got a few miles on him now, but did you see that game-winning run? Did you see the 360 he did in the backfield before he ever got to that rookie, Whatshisname? He's a cold blooded killer."
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