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NFL Scouting Combine: Fred Taylor, mentor


INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Call it a chance to give back.

That's what Fred Taylor considers it – and it's why he said he savored the opportunity he received at the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine this week.

Taylor, a Pride of the Jaguars running back, was in Indianapolis this week as part of the NFL's program to have NFL Legends mentor draftable rookies during the combine. Pride of the Jaguars quarterback Mark Brunell participated last year and again this season, and this was Taylor's first year participating.

Taylor's first combine appearance as a mentor comes 20 years after he participated.

Two decades …

"The grandfather clock, it ain't slowing down,'' Taylor said with a laugh.

Taylor talked a while with this week at the combine, and discussed his thoughts on the Jaguars – specifically the recent contract extension for quarterback Blake Bortles and the future of running back Leonard Fournette.

Taylor, a member of the Jaguars' game-day radio broadcast team, said he liked the idea of extending Bortles. He also said he liked what he saw from Fournette this season.

But mostly, he talked about what it was like to be at the combine exactly 20 years after participating as a rookie. Then, Taylor was a physical phenom – an eye-catching combination of size, strength and speed. These were the days before combine was televised, and when it was held at the old RCA Dome. In those days, many top players opted against running the 40-yard dash, citing the facility's reputation as a slow track. Taylor opted instead to run the 40 at his Pro Day at the University of Florida, turning in a 4.29 time that this reporter still remembers as one of the most memorable Pro Day feats he has covered.

That 40 also helped him get drafted by the Jaguars No. 9 overall.

Taylor said this week all of that seems in a sense like a long time ago and in a sense it seems not long ago at all.

"It's not hard to believe, but it's hard to believe," Taylor said with a smile. "You're like, 'Man, where's time going?' It seems like it was yesterday – all of it. I've been retired seven years in September. I tell people that and I say, 'Yeah, I'm the one living it, so I know.'''

Taylor, too, said the combine definitely brought back memories.

He said he remembered the players' hotel, and the railroad track that runs through downtown Indianapolis near the center of the combine.

"I remember people talking the New York Giants and their IQ test, and it having 400 questions," Taylor said. "I remember all the other guys saying, 'I'm not going to do that test' and me saying, 'Well, I'm doing that test.'''

Taylor said that story was reflective of how he was at the time. Yes, he was a player of remarkable gifts. But he said he never considered himself that way, never assumed he was destined to make it in the NFL and always wanted to do what it took to make it. He said he remained that way a long time in the NFL.

That's one of many insights he tries to pass along to young players this week. He said he talks, too, about financial responsibility, the importance of taking care of his body – lessons he learned during a 13-year NFL career and lessons he wishes he had learned earlier.

"The NFL didn't have this resource for us when we came through," Taylor said. "Not as guys trying to make the transition through the draft and then to a team. Once you were in, there were resources you could lean on. It makes it so much easier for that transition.

"You can tell them, 'Look, this is what I did wrong. Avoid this at all costs. These are things that are going to be tests. It's best to minimize those.' I try to tell them what the league wants from them, and that's to be a professional and to have great character and integrity – and to come here ready to work. That's what the league wants from them."

Taylor said, too, he wants young players to realize the contributions of former players.

"There were guys who built this thing," Taylor said. "They built the foundation of the game. I tell these guys, 'Honor these guys. Respect what they did, what they laid out.' I want to share those expectations as well because it's a privilege and it's definitely an honor.

"The guys that come in with a sense of entitlement – those are the guys who are usually out quick and who make up the 78 percent – the guys who are bankrupt and divorced. You want to see that reduced."

Taylor said he hopes to participate in the Combine program again, and that he hopes something else.

"I hope other players get a chance to experience it, because it makes you feel at home again," Taylor said with a smile. "The Legends community … it makes you feel you went out and beat yourself up, and it was for a good cause."

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