The Jaguars were chasing the playoffs in November of 2007 when they rolled into Nashville at 5-3. A win over the Titans was the task at hand, in order to stay close in the race for an AFC Wild Card slot, but it wasn't the only thing on the Jags' to-do list that day. Fred Taylor needed just 13 rushing yards to gain 10,000 for his career and become only the 21st player in NFL history to hit the plateau.
Taylor was, as he is now, beloved by Jaguars players, coaches and fans. The 10th-year running back was a human highlight reel and his career was a hit list of some of the franchises' biggest and best moments. That he would have the chance to eclipse 10,000 yards against the Titans, who provided some of the franchises' lowest moments, was nothing more than coincidence but it was seen as delicious irony for Taylor.
The Jaguars went right after the Titans. On their first drive of the game Taylor took handoffs on the first two plays, but the Titans knew what was coming and shut the door quickly. So on 3rd-and-10 quarterback Quinn Gray turned to Maurice Jones-Drew, who took a screen pass into the right flat for 10 yards, setting the stage for Taylor's march to 10,000 once again.
Taylor was ready for this moment, before the game telling teammates, "I'm not going to juke anybody." That, from the back who juked everybody. "I'm just going to run people over." True to his word, Fred took the handoff from Gray and headed straight up the middle, following the blocks of Brad Meester, Vince Manuwai and Chris Naeole right into the teeth of the Titans defense. Tennessee safety Chris Hope stepped into the hole and unwittingly fulfilled Taylor's promise. Fred ran right through Hope and even carried him part of the way during his 15-yard milestone-reaching run.
Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio, running backs coach Kennedy Pola and the sidelines erupted, and referee Ed Hochuli stopped the game to present the game ball to Taylor. In a nod to sportsmanship of days gone by even the Titans fans stood and cheered the moment for a player who had never heard them do anything but boo as he ran by. Titans coach Jeff Fisher told Taylor after the game that he hoped the historic run would come to their sideline so he could be the first one to congratulate him.
"I think I owe it to my grandmother," Taylor said when asked of the quiet way he handled himself after the run. "She always told me to stay humble. I had to keep my composure; we had a lot of game left. The score was 0-0 so I didn't want to get overly excited. I just put my head down, thanked God and asked that we go out there and play as hard as we can to get that win."
Taylor finished the game with only 30 more yards, giving way to Jones-Drew to run for 101, which was simply a sign of what was to come. In the locker room after the game Jones-Drew spoke volumes when he asked reporters to speak about Taylor before he was asked to speak about Taylor. "He has been a great person on the field, but more so off the field," he said. "I've learned so much from him as a player but even more as a person. When you have a guy like that you enjoy his success even more. I am excited and proud for him."
Around the NFL the moment was seen as Taylor crossing the 10,000-yard mark, but to those much closer to Fred it was all about the man and how he had gotten there.