Fred Taylor signed a one-day contract last week with the Jacksonville Jaguars so that he could retire where his career started. After a consistently productive 13-year NFL career, Taylor ranks as 15th all time with his 11,695 rushing yards. He also rushed for 66 touchdowns in 153 games. To give you a sense of his effectiveness, Taylor ranks just 21st in career carries with 2,534, which transitions nicely into Taylor’s most impressive stat coming from Pete Prisco — Taylor had 8 seasons in which he rushed for 4.5 yards or more per carry, a total bested only by the legendary Jim Brown and Barry Sanders. That’s pretty exclusive company. Fred Taylor joined WFXJ with Pete Prisco to discuss how he’s now glad that he started his career in Jacksonville when it was first joining the NFL, getting in touch with Jimmy Smith lately to help him with his off the field issues, learning a lot from Bill Belichick and Tom Brady in New England in the latter stages of his career, how only he, Barry Sanders and Jim Brown rushed for 4.5 yards per carry or more in 8 seasons, and whether he feels he’s deserving to be in the Hall of Fame.
You said in your retirement press conference that you were glad to end up in Jacksonville because if you would have ended up in a big city like New York you don’t think you would be the player you are today? Elaborate on that. Did you think you would have gotten caught up in the big trappings of a big city?
“That’s exactly what I was referring to. God gives you only what you can handle. Sometimes people can’t handle too much success too soon. God gave it to me slowly. Like I said coming out of Belle Glade, Florida helped. Gainesville [Florida] was huge. I still think Gainesville my eyes were so big I was like whoa this a big place and then getting to Jacksonville it was like that all over again. In all actuality I realized that I hadn’t gone enough places. Maybe if the market was a little bigger and I had been in that limelight I don’t know man maybe I would have gotten complacent, but thankfully I landed here in ‘Gator Territory’ in ‘Gator Country’ and I’ll say it again ‘Gator Country.’ I loved being here. I am always going to feel a part of the community. I don’t want it any other way.”
You went the right way in your career. Your buddy Jimmy Smith has had some issues. Have you talked with him recently to try to help him out?
“Yeah I have been taking to J-Smooth. I talked to him the other day. I really don’t want to go into detail because I really don’t know the entire story of exactly what is going on. We talked and it was mostly just catching up. We were talking about the good old days and talking about what is going on and what adventures he is looking to get into. The same with me and what I am looking to get into. Basically it was just good old friends catching up man I didn’t really want to harp on whatever is kind of hovering over his head. He knows if he needs my help with anything I am only a phone call away.”
You told me you learned a lot from being up in New England with Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. Elaborate to the audience about that?
“Basically like what I shared with the guys today I felt like I let them down in a sense when I thought I was doing enough to be considered a team leader and a captain. I never felt like I was doing anything wrong. I never led anyone down the wrong path. I always tried to do things from experience as well as by my play and my actions. Quite frankly that wasn’t enough and I wouldn’t have ever realized that had I not gone up to New England and experienced a coach as good as coach Belichick over the past two seasons and having a teammate like Tom Brady with the sense of urgency, the drive, the passion, the commitment that he always has to say. It’s no wonder why they’ve been the most successful organization in the past decade because that is how they prepare. It’s all about preparation. Coach Belichick holds each and every person on the team accountable no matter who you were.
Even Tom Brady got it and he let him have it. That’s what you want out of your team. No one guys says…you want each and every guy to know that at any given moment you have to be accountable. If I stopped you in the hall way and asked you for your assignment even if it’s Tuesday I expect you to know some of it. That’s the way coach Belichick approached everything and my respect for him just sky rocketed and went through the roof before I even got there. I just wondered why is this team always so successful? They are boring. They are this and they are that. When you get there you don’t have to be flashy. You just gotta get the job done. You have to prepare and get the job done. Those are things I took away from that and those are the things I want to help instill into this team and my former teammates, so they can be as successful as the team up north as my other team the Patriots.”
I dug up this stat. You rushed for 4.5 yards per carry or more for 8 seasons. The only running backs ahead of you were Jim Brown and Barry Sanders. How special is that to you?
“It’s nice to get acknowledged. I think though there was still more. It was still more out there. I don’t want to sound like I am regretting things. I am not. I really think I had a fantastic career. The injuries I endured were part of the game, but like I said they helped define and shake me. To be able to be mentioned in the same breath as a Jim Brown and Barry Sanders. I don’t think I’ve done anything to be mentioned in the same breath as them or even the third best of all time, but it’s a privilege. I am honored. To even be mentioned in the same sentence is extremely humbling.”
Do you ever think about the Hall of Fame?
“Well Pete not until late. Not until I realized obtaining 2,000 yards [a season] was so close when I was in Jacksonville. Even after that trying to catch Jim Brown and that didn’t happen. The whole thing, the Hall of Fame, it means a lot. I think coming in…I don’t think a whole lot of young players coming in really think Hall of Fame. A lot of them think I want my check. A lot of them think I just want to win. I’m just happy to be here. I’ll do whatever it takes just to get a couple of reps, but I don’t think a whole lot of Hall of Fame talk goes around, but later in my career maybe a year ago or two years ago I started thinking about it a little bit more. I didn’t even think it was possible. The numbers I put up…I do think that the body of work speaks for itself. Regardless of them trying to say well he doesn’t have enough Pro Bowls on his belt or he doesn’t have a certain amount of stats. He played in a small market. I think that is all shut up and those are all excuses. I am going to make it Pete. I’m going to make it. I never said this, but I’m confident enough to say it. If we are talking about the integrity of the game, which is preached to us, each-and-every moment then I’ll make it. No doubt about it.”