Fred Taylor, the Jaguars’ all-time leading rusher, retired from the NFL shortly before this season in an emotional ceremony at EverBank Field. A little more than four months later,
It has been a little more than four months since you formally announced your retirement. First off, how are you doing now?
I’m in 100 percent Family Mode. Not to say I haven’t always been in that mode, but there’s a difference between playing and being home each and every day for the majority of the day while trying to sprinkle in networking and business ties and the whole shebang. I’m actually a lot more busy now than when I played football. I never thought that would be the case, but it’s exactly the case.
Real life is a little different than the NFL . . .
(Laughing) In football, you’re playing a game you love and there’s not a whole lot of stress. You just have to deal with the small subtleties, the coaches in your ear, the injuries . . . It’s a strain, because if you want to be the best you have to dig deep and do the necessary things to be successful, but I find myself a lot more busy now. I’m trimming the fat on a lot of aspects of my life, trying to be efficient and trying to be successful.
You started off your first answer by saying “100 percent . . .” It sounded for a brief second like you might say, “100 percent physically.” No plans for a comeback?
(Laughing). No, I’m not planning a comeback. I already took my workman’s comp, so I’m not coming back.
Before we talk about some of the goings on around the Jaguars this week, talk about your first season out of the NFL. This is the first fall, probably since you can remember, when you haven’t played football. Strange?
It’s really strange. It was extremely strange on Sunday mornings. I actually was waking up earlier on Sundays now than when I played. I always woke up five hours before kickoff when I played, no matter what the game was. I wanted to give myself an hour to get my thoughts together before the pre-game meal, which was usually four hours before kickoff. That was the routine, but now I wake up at seven, and get my kids ready for church. Getting them breakfast and getting them ready, then getting myself ready and being to church my nine – it’s definitely a different schedule. I get home and tell the kids, ‘Look, don’t forget it’s Sunday. Don’t bother me. I have football all day.’ I love DirectTV, because I get to watch eight games at once. My wife and kids, they hate it, because they don’t understand what I’m doing, but I love it. I get to watch all the games all at once. It was different. It was really different.
That brings us to Maurice. You obviously follow him closely. Just talk about his season, and what has impressed you . . .
It was a big season for Mo. He gets it. He understands now. I think he really gets it and knows what dedication he needs to be successful. He has learned pretty quickly and all of that work has paid off. You wouldn’t think someone would have the season Maurice is having just because of all of the confusion in the off-season with the lockout. So many guys who were expected to have great seasons didn’t do so well. Maurice came back, he kicked butt and this season, did what the team asked of him. He came in and did well, and for Maurice to buckle down and have the type of season he’s having, it’s impressive. For Maurice to go out there and make bringing my records down look simple with what he’s doing is a tribute to him and how hard he’s worked. I’m happy to have had the opportunity to bring him along early in his career, but to see him maintain that and actually get better, as he’s doing, it’s a sight to see. It makes me feel great.
You made contact with him this week.
I sent him a text message challenging him on the record this weekend and what the Colts are going to bring. They’ve won two in a row, so they want to finish the season on good momentum.
What perspective can you share with how Maurice must be feeling as this weekend approaches?
It’s bittersweet, because he’s doing so well and the team isn’t doing so well. All the similarities point back to ’03 when I set the single-season record and we didn’t do so well. I’m sure it’s like me in that he’s frustrated. You want to win those games so you can really bask in the moment and you can enjoy those moments. There were times I rushed for 150 yards and when I got home I had a small smile on my face, but when I got home and was watching ESPN and we’d be the team that had lost – knowing we should have beat those teams, it makes you feel sick inside.
You’ve talked a lot about how you matured from the time you were a rookie through your later years. Do you see the same process going on in Maurice?
He is maturing. I think he has a head start on where I was. He has a team. I was never one of those guys who had a publicist, and had people advising me what to do. When Maurice came in, I genuinely didn’t mind sharing the spotlight, so naturally he beat my brains up, asking me this, asking me that. I would say, ‘Look, through my experiences – I’m not telling you what to do – but this is what happened to me. You can pull from it, make your own decisions and do the right things.’ He works out. He has a trainer. He doesn’t wait until two weeks before the off-season program to start getting in shape. He hits the ground running in February a little at a time and builds on it, so when the off-season training starts with the team he’s full tilt. I wasn’t doing that type of stuff until I was 29 about to turn 30. That’s when I started training with a personal trainer. Maurice, we train with the same guy now. He’s great, and during the season, he takes care of Maurice’s body. Our trainer, Pete Bommarito, Maurice has him up every single weekend – away and home games. He’s taking care of Maurice and making sure every single muscle is firing. I didn’t necessarily know about those luxuries. The small investments accentuate the big picture.
It sounds like as long as he’s still playing you feel there’s at least a part of you still playing . . .
I am a Maurice Jones-Drew fan, first and foremost, because the odds were against him. For a small guy to be able to step up and play with the intensity and the tenacity and the aggression he plays with is mind-boggling. Any time he pops off a huge run or makes a huge block, I jump up. I’m one of his personal cheerleaders, almost. As long as he’s playing, it will make me miss the game a lot less. My job is to make sure he doesn’t become complacent and get too excited with his success, because you have to build on it each and every year.
Sunday is Wayne Weaver’s final game as Jaguars owner. You have to have some emotions as you see him ready to step away. What was your reaction when you heard he was selling the team?
I was shocked. I saw the firing of (Head Coach) Jack (Del Rio) coming at some point, but I didn’t see that Mr. Weaver would be selling the team. You would hear about it, but you didn’t think it would come directly after the firing of Jack, so I was caught off guard, personally. I’m kind of speechless, still, because the Weavers are great people. They really are. They’re open-minded, open-hearted and they gave back to the community. Just those works alone makes you love them. But being the first owner, owning the team from the expansion years up until now, he did the things to be successful. It didn’t always work out, but he was trying. You would hear stories that other teams didn’t have certain things – the dining facilities we had, the nutrition – anything we needed he would provide for us so we could be successful. Not a lot of owners do that. Mr. Weaver tried to help the organization be successful, so you have to salute him.
And anyone who played here will tell you he was passionate about the team.
Win, lose, it didn’t matter. He would be right there greeting the guys, shaking hands. I remember several times he would snatch me and give me the biggest hugs. It made me feel good that it was the owner doing this. He wasn’t standoffish.
And players genuinely liked playing on his teams.
He gave the players their privacy, and he wasn’t on camera all the time. He did his thing as the owner in the background and let the business take care of itself. It’s hard when the owner makes a lot of comments on a daily basis. If that happens, some of the guys would be on pins and needles. He kind of sat back. When I saw him in New England the first year when the Jaguars came up, it felt great just to be able to see Mr. Weaver and Mrs. Weaver. They each gave me huge hugs, and they said they missed me and I said I really missed them. It (Sunday’s game) will be a sad moment, but it will also be a happy moment for the city of Jacksonville. Change is intriguing. It brings forth an exciting moment.
It sounds as if you have a good vibe from what you’ve heard about Shahid Khan . . .
He seems positive and energetic, and it seems like he’s willing to do whatever it takes to make the team successful. It seems like he could be a younger version of (New England Patriots Owner) Mr. (Robert) Kraft. He’s a self-made guy and it takes a lot of guts to get to that point. I would love to meet him at some point. The franchise is really at a time where it’s trying to find its identity. It’s a small-market team and there has been a lot of talk about moving. The team really has to grab its identity and start its transition. Jacksonville is still a young franchise. It hasn’t really had a chance to begin its legacy. You need to get in those big games and once you get in those big games, you start to develop that tradition. I just think that as successful as Mr. Khan has been, and as the team grows and the years pass, the tradition will start to form, the city will grow and it will be a happy marriage. It won’t happen overnight, but that’s what I foresee.
Any final thoughts, anything you’d like to say to Wayne?
I just want to tell him personally, ‘Thank you for 11 great years in my time there.’ I want to let him know they’ll be missed.