All Fred Taylor all the time today. I've been looking forward to this. I've said plenty about Taylor over the years. He's one of the classiest players I've ever covered and one of the best. Today, for the most part, I'll stay out of the way and let you share. (Incidentally, I think we saved the best for last.)
Let's get to it . . .
Johnny C from Jacksonville Beach, FL:
My favorite Fred Taylor moment comes from the 1998 home game against the Dolphins. I was with my dad picking up some food for the game to take home. We were running late so we were listening to the early part of the first quarter on the radio. I wanna say it was the Jaguars' first offensive play from scrimmage when Fred Taylor bolted an 80-yard run to the end zone. I'll never forget Brian Sexton's play call "Fred Taylor ERUPTS And So Does Alltel Stadium." I was 13 at the time and couldn't help but get the goose bumps of Jaguar pride and the feeling that I absolutely needed to be there at the stadium. That was one of many moments that worked to cement my Jaguar fanhood as a young kid.
John: That was the first game I knew Taylor was special. Real special. He had been good before, really good. But on that night, he did it on a national stage. Star power. Good stuff.
Scott from Hudmon:
We all know Freddie was a great rusher and his offensive production cannot be questioned. But what makes him special to me is his love for our city and the Jaguars' franchise. Fred was a great interviewee since he always spoke his mind. But he always consistently spoke highly of the franchise and Jacksonville, and that's what makes him stand out in my mind.
John: Taylor is among the most sincere, honest athletes I've ever met. His love of Jacksonville and this franchise always have stood out. That's why the honor is so fitting. He truly takes pride in the Jaguars and the franchise and its fans take pride in him.
Jon from Nijmegan, Netherlands:
My memory of Fred started with both the Baltimore game you mentioned and the Miami MNF football game. In each he looked as if he was shot out of a cannon following a cutback. I remember a year or two later thinking he was a one-year wonder because as he got older you didn't see the really long touchdowns. Only now can I look back and see that he was a more complete back after his groin injury and later in his career. Still fast but more complete.
John: What was remarkable about Taylor wasn't just his explosiveness when he was young, but his longevity. He made the Pro Bowl in his 10th season, and it was no fluke. A decade in, he was playing at a high level. That's rare for a back.
Paul from Farnhamville, IA:
Fred Taylor is the reason I was a Gator fan as a kid and why I am a Jaguars fan to this day. While Maurice Jones Drew is probably one of the most consistent backs in the league. Freddy T was one of those players that made you hold your breath every time he touched the football. My fondest memories of football are watching Freddy rip up my mom's Steelers and her yelling at the TV, "Can somebody tackle that guy!"
John: My last year covering Taylor was 2000. That was the year he rushed for more than 100 yards in nine consecutive games. One of those games was when he set the single-game record for rushing yards by a visiting running back at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh. It was the only game I ever have seen in which tackling angles didn't matter. Taylor that night simply outran them. Unique stuff.
Tom from Orlando, FL:
Best Fred Taylor memory: Hands down, the 90-yard TD in Dan Marino's "farewell" game during the '99 season's playoffs.
John: A unique player in his prime. Just as impressive may have been his move on his touchdown reception in the same game, but yeah, I won't argue the 90-yarder. Only the elitist of elite players make that run.
Doug from Bunnell, FL:
In 2007, I attended the Jaguars' blowout victory over the Raiders. On the Jaguars' first possession 60,000 Jaguars faithful were chanting Freddy! Freddy! as he walked alone toward the huddle. I was fortunate enough to snap a picture as this was unfolding. Next thing you know the offense lines up and Freddy is off to the races to the house for six. I kept the picture and had it blown up. This past summer at the Jaguars caravan stop in Port Orange, I was fortunate enough to meet Fred and had him sign the picture. As he viewed it, I could see him re-living the moment. We briefly discussed the play and the picture and I could tell he appreciated it just as much as me. Awesome moment with an awesome dude. Congratulations and thanks Fred!
John: Good stuff.
C-Zone from Jacksonville:
Growing up, Freddy T. was always my favorite player. The first game I ever got to attend was in 2007 against the Oakland Raiders. First play for the Jaguars, Fred breaks off a 62-yard TD. I...went...NUTS. The Raider fan behind me, wearing a spike helmet and black and silver face paint, was not amused. We went on to beat the Raiders 49-11. I'll never forget that day and how awesome Taylor was. (Side note-this was Warren Sapp's last game in the NFL, and he got ejected.)
John: Good stuff.
Steve from Waycross, GA:
Not a question, just wanted to share a memory about Fred. When Fred went over the 10,000-yard mark I got the newspapers sport section so I could get Fred to sign it. Rushing for 10,000 yards was impressive enough but the picture on the front page said it all. It showed Fred Taylor headed to the end zone on a long run which was not unusual. It also showed in that pic that Fred was in the process of running over a defensive back. Again not unusual to witness a determined Fred Taylor bulldoze over someone on his way to the end zone, but the name on the jersey told the story. His name was Hope and on that day there was no hope in keeping Fred from getting a touchdown and his 10,000th-yard in front of a home crowd that he loved to play for. By the way Fred was very kind to sign it and I have a memory that will stay with me a life time.
John: Maurice Jones-Drew and Brad Meester talked this week about their memory of that play, and how it was fitting that Fred got his 10,000th-yard in that fashion. He was as powerful as he was fast, another thing that made him unique.
Gabriel from Sioux Falls, ID:
My family and I flew to Jacksonville to watch the game against the Raiders late one year. I wanted to see Fred take it to the house just one time. First offensive possession of the game for the Jaguars Fred takes it to the house for a 60 yard run. Priceless!
John: That was late in his 10th season. Most backs aren't ripping off 60-yard runs at that point in their careers.
Adam from Fleming Island, FL:
My first football game ever as a very young boy was a playoff game between the Jaguars and the Dolphins. I can remember that my father was excited to be there because it was Dan Marino's last game and he had grown up a Dolphins fan. What I remember most from that game is Fred Taylor and the rest of the Jaguars' dominating performance. That day changed my life forever. That was the day I became a jags fan. I'll most likely never meet Fred in person to tell him so maybe he'll see it here, Mr. Oehser. Thank you for all of the hard work you put in and for being a positive role model while I was growing up. I can think of no better compliment than to say that there are many people just like me who are better, happier people for having witnessed your actions.
John: Well said.
Ian from Leeds, England:
Back in 2005, I'd just watched my first ever Super Bowl (not widely shown in the UK) and bought a reduced copy of Madden '04 from a local store. I cycled through the teams and tried to learn the game through it, but as time went on, I always seemed to choose the Jags as my team. The reason for that was Freddie T. I then started looking up clips and watching games featuring Freddie. Through this, I grew to love the Jags, despite no other ties to the team. In summary, I guess, when you're free from geographical bias, you cheer for the guys who entertain you the most. For me, 28 was that guy.
John: He was for a lot of people, too. Good stuff.
Michael from St. Augustine, FL:
I was eight years old, at the very game that you said you were going to write the article that Taylor was a bust. We had a guy who sat behind us, named Buck, who chewed on a thick cigar, got wasted and screamed "Bootleg it" on every single play. I remember it clear as day, Taylor comes in the game, blows through the line, into the secondary and all we could see was cleats baby. He was the man on fire. I was jumping and screaming and I fell straight over the seat in front of me; scraped my hands and had a huge knot on my head. I never thought of crying, Fred Taylor was my hero, and he was a Jaguar. That was a good day.
John: I keep picturing Buck screaming, "Bootleg it" on every play. I love that.
Adam from Jacksonville and section 123:
What are the chances of getting Freddy to suit up for the 1st half before he officially retires a Jag?
John: When I talked to him Friday, he said he imagined he might feel the urge after the ceremony. He's retired, though, and the game is lesser for it.
Eric from Section 412:
My favorite memory of Freddy T was him running over Mike Doss. As a reporter for the Colts then, how was Doss's mood after that happened? Did he gain a new respect for Fred? I'd love to see that in the highlight reel come halftime! He definitely made watching our team more enjoyable each time he took a handoff.
John: Honestly, I don't remember how Doss reacted. I've wracked my brain this week because that was obviously a memorable moment, and I wish I had something to share. I do remember early that season when Doss had taunted him in Indianapolis that that wasn't a very smart thing to do. I knew Taylor from covering him in Jacksonville, and was sure that if the two went head-to-head very often most confrontations wouldn't come out in Doss' favor. I was right, and although I was covering the Colts at the time, part of me smiled for Taylor. It was his sort of moment.
Eric from Jacksonville:
Best Freddy T moment(s): decimating the Pittsburgh Steelers and forever owning the visitor's rushing record at historic Three Rivers Stadium. If that's not HOF worthy I dunno what is.
John: Certain games define a player. That one, for many, defined Taylor.
Jonathan from Fort Irwin, CA:
Imagine if Fred would have started his first two games. He may have won ROY over Moss. It was possible.
John: I wrote that year that he should have gotten it. And you're right, if he'd started the first two games, he probably would have been Rookie of the Year.
Darralynn Scobee from Kilgore, TX:
Without a doubt, my favorite memory of Fred is from Houston, on a Saturday night before a December game. A group of us went to a mall about 8 p.m., where we encountered a group of the newest batch of Jaguar rookies. We were dressed in Jaguar gear, very obviously fans. We greeted them, and the young turks, in their dark shades, passed us by without a word. Walking alone about 30 feet behind them, was Fred. Due to the previous group's behavior I was a bit shy about saying something, so I just wished him good luck in the game. He stopped, thanked us, asked us our names, and when I said I was Josh Scobee's mom, he warmed up even more and visited with our star-struck group for several minutes. That is class and humility that the turks, none of whom are in the league now, will never possess. Thanks for the memories, Freddy.