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Respectful, humbled

Posted Jun 5, 2012

RB Fred Taylor on Jaguars rookie wide receiver Justin Blackmon: "He’s part of this family."

Fred Taylor has been there, seen it, lived it.

He went through trials in 13 NFL seasons, and overcame obstacles. The former Jaguars running back knows from experience what matters isn’t as much what happens to you, or the mistakes you make – even the bad ones. Rather, it’s how you respond.

“That is 1,000 percent true,” Taylor said Tuesday en route to Daytona for the 2012 Jaguars Caravan.

That was a major part of Taylor’s message to Justin Blackmon Tuesday afternoon when the Jaguars’ all-time leading rusher spoke to the rookie wide receiver for several minutes at EverBank Field.

Blackmon, the No. 5 overall selection in the 2012 NFL Draft, this past Sunday was charged by Stillwater, Okla., police with aggravated DUI. He pled not guilty to the charge Monday, and after two days of national and local criticism, rejoined the team’s off-season program Tuesday.

While there, he spoke with Taylor.

Taylor said he spoke with the rookie about many things. The leverage he had on draft day. The leverage he lost with the weekend’s incident. The future he could have in the league, and with the organization. He said he talked of his own experiences, and what can be learned from them.

“I spoke with him that it’s about this point forward,” Taylor said. “That milk has already spilt – just take advantage of everything else.”

As much as anything, Taylor said he talked about not squandering the opportunity Blackmon still has before him, and when the conversation was over, Taylor said he came away impressed.

And squandering that opportunity? He doesn’t think Blackmon will.

“I wouldn’t call it a crisis,” Taylor said. “It’s a mistake he made. I think because of his youth, because he is a young guy, he made a mistake.”

Taylor played 11 seasons with the Jaguars and finished his career as one of the most popular players in franchise history, maybe the most popular player.

In retrospect, it might all seem easy.

The franchise’s leading rusher. A likely spot in the Pride of the Jaguars. A certain spot in the hearts of most Jaguars fans.

Taylor said reality was a bit different. He said he went through difficult times on and off the field – not the same as Blackmon’s, perhaps, but trying. He heard ridicule from fans. He heard criticism from the media, and he had his disagreements with the organization.

Blackmon has faced similar criticism in recent days, maybe worse, and Taylor said while that may continue, he said Blackmon’s best approach is to ignore it.

“Anytime my name was brought up, or if I had a bad game, I didn’t even read the papers,” Taylor said. “I don’t think he’s the type of person who will be affected by it, in terms of his psyche. I think he’s going to be fine. He might end up putting a little more pressure on himself in terms of wanting to do right in the eyes of people.

“But I think the best thing he can do now is not even read the papers or twitter and stuff.”

Taylor also said Blackmon’s far from the only young NFL player to make such an error.

“I used to go back to Florida and throw parties and have some drinks,” Taylor said. “Thankfully for me, I didn’t get the worst that could have happened. I was able to get through, but looking back you say, ‘Damn, that was stupid.’ I shared all of that with him. I wasn’t squeaky clean. I told him, ‘I still have flaws I’m ironing out,’ but I figured out what to avoid.

“The NFL – they’re not against you. They actually want to see you succeed, because it makes them look good. I just told him, ‘Don’t leave anything on the table and take advantage of every opportunity you get.’”

Among Taylor’s messages to Blackmon:

That this incident, through trying, needn’t be the defining moment of his career.

“He has time,” Taylor said.

Taylor said throughout the conversation, Blackmon was responsive and humble. He said he told Blackmon that the key to his situation now is how he handles himself moving forward.

Toward the end of the conversation, Taylor and Blackmon exchanged numbers. Taylor said he doesn’t want to say he’ll be Blackmon’s mentor, necessarily, but he said what he wants is to be available for Blackmon if needed.

That’s a role he’d like to play for other Jaguars rookies, and Blackmon’s a good place to start.

“He’s a part of this family,” Taylor said. “I’m a Jaguar. I’ll always be a Jaguar.”

And for those fans who are criticizing Blackmon, and who wonder if this is a case of a first-round wide receiver destined for failure, Taylor said he honestly doesn’t think so.

“He was pretty bright,” Taylor said. “I know people will say, ‘Well, if he’s so bright, how could he . . .’ Stuff happens. We’re in a business where everything’s going to get magnified times 10. You have to walk a fine line, but I think he’s going to be a great player for the organization. I really do think that. I think he’ll be able to cross over and play well in the NFL.

“I think he’s a respectful guy and I think he’s humbled.”

And having been where Blackmon is – or at least been some place similar – Taylor said he believes the rookie will respond the right way. And if he does, his career is far from defined.


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