Jim Taylor: One Tough S.O.B.
by John Delach
Jim Taylor died on October 13th in a hospital near his home in Baton Rouge, Louisiana at the age of 83. If you were interested enough to read any of the obituaries or commentaries dedicated to his life as a Hall of Fame NFL running back, you’d have noticed that Taylor’s greatest attribute was being one tough S.O.B.
I witnessed his determination on a bitterly cold afternoon in Yankee Stadium on December 30, 1962. The Green Bay Packers beat the New York Football Giants that day: 16-7 in the NFL Championship Game. Lacking today’s winter wear, I endured 17 degrees coupled with a 40 MPH wind only to suffer through my Giants inability to best Coach Vince Lombardi’s superior team.
Taylor was the key to the Packers success. This I can testify to as I watched, hid every carry up close and personal looking through my powerful 7×50 binoculars.
Robert Riger reported from the game:
“The Giants defense was mean and fiercely aggressive. They gave Jim Taylor the same treatment they had given Jimmy Brown over the years – the maximum physical effort on every play. ‘It was terrible,’ Bart Starr, the Packer quarterback confided, ‘The huddle would form, and I would watch him come back after Huff, Grier, Robustelli and the rest of the Giants defense had hit him, and he was bent over holding his insides together. I didn’t want to give it to him so much, but I had to. He’s our best man and I needed him and the 31 times he carried the ball was more than he has all season. But I’ll tell you something, if there were six downs instead of four I would have given it to him all six times and he never would have complained. He has never given anything less than his best.”
1962 was a vintage year for the both the Packers as a team and for Taylor as a player. The Packers won the Western Conference with a 13-1 record, Taylor led the league with 1.474 rushing yards and was the named the NFL’s MVP.
Richard Goldstein reported in The New York Times obituary: “Taylor engaged in a private war that day with Sam Huff the Giants middle linebacker and the leader of their vaunted defense. Taylor confessed:
‘I don’t ever remember being hit so hard. I bled the whole game. My arms bled from hitting the frozen dirt and my tongue bled after I bit it in the first half. “
Taylor’s 31 carries in the championship game netted him an additional 85 yards but Genaro C. Armas pointed out how difficult these yards were to gain: “Taylor sustained a gash to his elbow that required seven stitches at halftime and cut his tongue during the game.
“If Taylor went up to get a program, Huff was supposed to hit him. Wherever Taylor went, Huff went with him. (Taylor’s teammate,) Jerry Kramer told The Associated press in 2008, ‘I remember sitting next to Jimmy on the way home (on the flight to Green Bay) and he had his topcoat on. He never took it off. He had it over his shoulders and the guy was shivering almost all the way home. He just got the hell beat out of him that day.”
Goldstein continued: “After the game, Taylor accused Huff and some of his teammates of piling on after stopping him.”
‘Taylor likes to crawl,’ Huff responded. ‘The only way to stop Taylor is to make sure that he’s down.”
Taylor’s toughness was personified by his instinctive running style. Other premier backs like Jim Brown and Gale Sayers used finesse to make potential tacklers miss while they hurried by these frustrated opponents; but not Taylor. Lombardi explained: “Jim Brown will give you that leg to tackle and then take it away from you. Jim Taylor will give it to you and then ram it through your chest.”
Abe Woodson, the premier 49er’s defensive back also explained Taylor’s M.O.: “Most people run away from a tackle, not Taylor, even if he had a clear path to the goal line, he’d look for a defensive back to run over on the way.”
The longer I watched Taylor on that frozen afternoon, the more I became in awe of him. By the fourth quarter, the winter sun had settled and a mind-numbing cold had enveloped the playing field and we, the faithful fans, Taylor was hunched over, reduced to hobbling back to the huddle like a cripple, bent over and spitting up blood. Still, when Starr called the next play, Taylor, lined up in the “T” formation behind Starr and charged ahead at the snap of the ball either to carry it or to block for Paul Horning, his running mate. He did this repeatedly with the same ferocity until the referee fired the shot that ended the contest.
Taylor scored the only offensive touchdown in the game and this is how he described his score, a seven-yard run, and rest of the game:
“It was the only play of the game they didn’t touch me. But they made up for it the rest of this miserable afternoon. It was the toughest game of my life. They really came to play.”
Jim Taylor: RIP